CHICAGO – After months of threats, the Center for Science in the Public Interest has sued Oak Brook, Ill.-based McDonald’s Corp., alleging that its practice of giving toys with children’s meals is deceptive advertising.

The organization claims the toys constitute a method of circumventing parental control and teaching children unhealthy eating from an early age.

The complaint, filed Wednesday in the Superior Court of California in and for San Francisco County, alleges unfair competition and false advertising.

According to the complaint, “McDonald’s exploits very young California children and harms their health by advertising unhealthy Happy Meals with toys directly to them.”

In a call with reporters, plaintiff Monet Parham, a Sacramento mother of two, said she was bringing the case because of the constant requests for McDonald’s Happy Meals.

“I don’t think it’s OK to entice children with Happy Meals with the promise of a toy,” she said, noting that she tries to hold her daughters, 6 and 2, to monthly visits. But she said the requests increased this summer, thanks to the popularity of “Shrek Forever After” and the idea of collecting all of the toys, which would require weekly visits.

“Needless to say, my answer was ‘no,’ ” she said. “And as usual, pouting ensued and a little bit of a disagreement between us. This doesn’t stop with one request. It’s truly a litany of requests.”

In a statement, McDonalds spokeswoman Bridget Coffing said that the company is proud of its Happy Meals and intends to “vigorously defend our brand, our reputation and our food.”

“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.”