A new law passed this week will go into effect on December 1 that makes giving away free toys in unhealthy children’s meals like the popular McDonald’s Happy Meal illegal. Santa Clara County in California now requires children’s meals to meet pre-set nutritional standards before they can include a free toy.
The controversial measure passed by an 8-3 vote and requires that in order for a children’s meal to contain free toys, it must contain less than 600 calories, contain fruits and vegetables, and come with a beverage without excessive fat or sugar.
The ironic part is that all of these are currently options with the popular McDonald’s Happy Meal. McDonald’s has made impressive strides in the last few years, offering healthier options. A parent could just as easily choose a hamburger with a side of apples and low fat milk or apple juice; all of these items are now options with the popular meal. The fact that parents choose to order fries or a soda is entirely up to them.
The lesson seems to be that if parents won’t raise their children the way the government thinks they should, then “we will do it for you.”
McDonald’s, who has been offering toys in their popular children’s meals since 1979 gave this statement from spokesperson Danya Proud:
“We are extremely disappointed with today’s decision. It’s not what our customers want, nor is it something they asked for. Getting a toy with a kid’s meal is just one part of a fun, family experience at McDonald’s.”
The new law isn’t awful from the standpoint of teaching nutrition. There is an obesity problem and something needs to happen. Is this the way to fix it? That’s another question entirely. The biggest problem is that it sets a horrible precedent. Next, we might find that businesses aren’t allowed to sell candy, Halloween is outlawed entirely, and Dairy Queen is told they can’t do business anymore. Oh, and birthday cake, watch out; you don’t stand a chance. Why stop there? Video games and cartoons discourage outdoor play; maybe they need to hit the chopping block too? See my point? The question is: where do we draw the line?
This parent is tired of seeing the finger pointed at everyone but parents. Children start smoking and we blame the tobacco industry. Why aren’t the people who live with them saying “no”? Children are watching violence and sex on TV and we blame television executives. Why aren’t parents turning off the TV or regulating what is watched in their own household? There’s an obesity problem and we blame McDonald’s. Why are parents making irresponsible nutritional choices? Can we, just for a minute, hold parents accountable for their kids?
McDonald’s did their part. They made more nutritional choices available. The fact that parents aren’t taking advantage of it is something that needs to be dealt with through educating the parents and not by penalizing the fast food industry.
I applaud San Francisco for attempting to tackle the concerning childhood obesity problem but am not quite as impressed with their solution.