Many years ago, I fondly remember being packed up in the Olds 88 and taken down to a drive-in called McDonald’s. I could get a hamburger or cheeseburger, some fries and maybe a chocolate shake. This was a very special meal occasion and an exception, not the “norm.”

Now, our hectic lifestyle has completely transposed the “norm” and the “special” meals. Sitting down and eating a family dinner with everyone at the table is very special. Ordering supper from a drive-thru through speaker is the norm. Your choice may be McDonald’s, Taco Bell, Burger King, Carl’s Jr. or a host of any fast food restaurants. For the most part, the majority of the food really is bad for you.

So it should come as no surprise that McDonald’s is being threatened with a lawsuit over enticing children with Happy Meal toys. The Center for Science in the Public Interest is on the verge of filing a lawsuit against the fast food chain, claiming the toys are causing kids to become overweight.

Actually, I think they mean eating the food is causing the children to become obese and not eating the toys. In essence, the CSPI is trying to force McDonald’s into changing their advertising and marketing. It is unclear at this time if Ronald McDonald was named in the suit, but if it goes forward, he might be called in as a character witness.

According to Super Size Me website, 1 in 4 Americans eat at a fast food restaurant every day. You would have to walk 7 hours to burn off the calories in a Super Sized Coke, fries and a Big Mac. The most surprising fact; Willard Scott (NBC Today Show) was the first Ronald McDonald. He was fired for being too fat.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out the dangers of fast food. The fat, the sodium and the empty calories can destroy even the best physique if it is eaten frequently. After the 2004 documentary, Super Size Me made by Morgan Spurlock, McDonald’s started stating their food should be eaten “as part of a healthy diet.” This is pretty hard to do when one Double Quarter Pounder with cheese would be considered a huge portion of your calories, fat and sodium for the day.

McDonald’s knows (as every company knows) you either increase market share or bring in new customers to sustain growth. Enter the Happy Meal, setting the way for future customers.

So should The Center for Science and Public Interest sue McDonald’s into submission and end the era of Happy Meal toys? Will such a suit stop the munching desires of children everywhere for a cheeseburger, fries and a Coke? What about Burger King, Taco Bell and all the other fast food companies? Even more importantly, what role does a parent play in a child’s nutritional choices?

As a creative resource for many companies, we tend to cringe when lawsuits dictate how a product or service can be marketed or advertised. That being said, some fast food restaurants are actually advancing the glamour of unhealthy food like the Wendy’s Baconator (1,330 calories and 38 grams of saturated fat) or the BK Quad Stacker (930 calories and 28 grams of saturated fat).

Personally, we would rather the CSPI not take McDonald’s to court, but we also realize such a suit is probably just a matter of time. At some point there will be the death of an individual who is habitual fast food addict. The family will seek counsel, the logic will be demonstrated and the legal battles will begin. It may even stem back to that individual’s childhood days of dining on Happy Meals to get the free toy.

Do Happy Meal toys entice children to dine at McDonald’s? Sure they do! Otherwise the marketing program would have been scrapped years ago. Does eating Happy Meals make you obese? Sure they do, if you eat enough of them. Will ending the toys reduce childhood obesity? Don’t count on it, especially if mom and dad have eating problems as well.

The fast food giants have created their own industry and possible demise. Huge agencies battle over these companies multi-million dollar marketing budgets creating employment for art directors, photographers, copy writers and other media professionals. McDonald’s is well-known for their Ronald McDonald houses which assist families when a child is facing a dire illness. KFC donated several million dollars to the Susan G. Komen for the Cure® breast cancer programs. Much good comes from the industry, but does the end justify the means?

It is sad to think that a social agency would be able to bring case against a restaurant for obesity. Lawyers will dwell over the facts, plan strategies and plead their cases in court over a small toy used in a marketing ploy. Now that the “special” has become the “norm.” Fast food will change when we as consumers begin to re-evaluate their priorities and help their children develop healthy eating habits. Until then, CSPI may bring legal action for the result of our bad behavior and the root cause will go untreated.

PS: As a side note, we recently took notice to a new TV commercial for McDonald’s introducing a new program for Happy Meals. With every Happy Meal a donation will be made to the Ronald McDonald’s House program. It’s an interesting twist in an ongoing story. Plus a visit to a recent store reveal table decals that called attention to the new program… Stay tuned for further developments.