Friday, December 17, 2010

McDonald's sued over Happy Meals

Happy Meals are again under attack, this time in court. The Center for Science in the Public Interest has filed a lawsuit against McDonald's Corp., claiming that the company's meals with toys unfairly entice children into eating food that can do them harm.

The Washington advocacy group warned McDonald's in June that it would sue if the company did not stop providing toys with children's meals that have high amounts of sugar, calories, fat and salt. The suit, filed in San Francisco Superior Court, seeks class-action status.

"McDonald's offerings consist mostly of fatty meat, fatty cheese, French fries, white flour, and sugar — a narrow combination of foods that promotes weight gain, obesity, diabetes, and heart disease — and may lead to a lifetime of poor diets," Michael Jacobson, the group's executive director, said in a news release.

The lead plaintiff in the suit is Monica Parham, a mother of two from Sacramento who said the company "uses toys as bait to induce her kids to clamor to go to McDonald's," the organization said.

McDonald's spokeswoman Bridget Coffing said Happy Meals offer quality foods in smaller portions that are appropriate for children.

As the debate over Happy Meals and childhood obesity has raged in recent months, McDonald's has consistently pointed out that parents can choose apple slices instead of French fries for their children, and order milk instead of soda. "We are proud of our Happy Meals and intend to vigorously defend our brand, our reputation and our food," Coffing said Wednesday.

"We listen to our customers, and parents consistently tell us they approve of our Happy Meals," Coffing said. "We are confident that parents understand and appreciate that Happy Meals are a fun treat, with quality, right-sized food choices for their children that can fit into a balanced diet."

Last month, San Francisco banned promotional toys served with meals that don't meet nutritional standards. This was widely seen as an attack on Happy Meals.


Another reversal in official British health advice

Going out in the midday sun without sunscreen is good for you, health experts have said. The latest advice recommends ten to 15 minutes’ exposure to help boost vitamin D levels. It runs contrary to previous warnings over the dangers of spending time in the sun when it is at its strongest.

The change of opinion comes amid concern that people may not be getting optimal levels of vitamin D – around 90 per cent of the body’s supply comes from the action of sunlight on the skin..

Experts have long warned the risk of skin cancer from UV rays outweighs any potential good. However, the latest advice from a range of health charities says exposure to the sun at midday during summer months can help build a store of the essential vitamin. And it reverses warnings about using suntan cream with a high sun protection factor before going outside and avoiding exposure between 10am and 2pm.

The new message from Cancer Research UK is ‘Never be red at the end of the day’

Experts have reacted in response to the growing number of children developing rickets, which is caused by lack of vitamin D. Deficiency has also been linked to cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and several cancers, as well as bone softening in adults.

According to a consensus statement from seven charities and professional bodies, in the summer people should expose their face, arms and legs for ten to 15 minutes, three times a week.
It is best done around noon, when the sun’s UVB rays are most effective at synthesising vitamin D.

In the winter, eating foods such as oily fish, eggs, fortified cereals and bread can provide enough of the vitamin alongside the body’s own stores, says the Department of Health.

The body needs vitamin D for the absorption of calcium and maintaining strong bones and teeth. It is also important for the function of the immune system.

The organisations signing up to the consensus statement are the British Association of Dermatologists, Cancer Research UK, Diabetes UK, the Multiple Sclerosis Society, the Heart Forum, the National Osteoporosis Society and the Primary Care Dermatology Society.

Professor Rona Mackie pointed out that the intensity of the sun’s rays in Australia, where the sun avoidance message originated, was not found in the UK. Oliver Gillie, who runs Health Research Forum, said: ‘The public has been seriously misled by advice to avoid the sun.’


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