Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Santa Clara bans toys in Happy Meals

When I was little, the Happy Meal toy was a magnificant, sought-after prize received on a special occasion in a folding box with some food my mom told me I had to eat before I could play with it. I can still remember my favorites: Fraggle Rock Friends, Transformer Chicken McNuggets Box, and those Garden Tools. Of course at that time a trip to McDonalds was treated as, well, a special treat. The McDonald's in our 'hood actually bordered a farm so we also got some farm animal visiting time. Today, it's hard to find a town in America without a bumper-to-bumper drive-thru line and dedicated traffic lights for fast food restaurants. In fact, you can't go more than 107 miles without finding one. But come on, Santa Clara. Beanie Baby craze aside, is it really because of the toys?

Could it possibly be because of... say... the super-low prices? artificial flavor induced cravings? convenience? Is eliminating the toy the solution or simply treatment for one symptom? The LA Times reports:

"...Happy Meal toys and other promotions that come with high-calorie children's meals will soon be banned in parts of Santa Clara County unless the restaurants meet nutritional guidelines approved Tuesday by the county Board of Supervisors. "This ordinance prevents restaurants from preying on children's' love of toys" to sell high-calorie, unhealthful food, said Supervisor Ken Yeager, who sponsored the measure. "This ordinance breaks the link between unhealthy food and prizes. "Voting against the measure was Supervisor Donald Gage, who said parents should be responsible for their children. "If you can't control a 3-year-old child for a toy, God save you when they get to be teenagers," he said. Gage, who is overweight, said he was a living example of how obese children can become obese adults. But he questioned the role of fast-food toys. "When I was growing up in Gilroy 65 years ago, there were no fast-food restaurants," Gage said.The board, whose jurisdiction extends only to the unincorporated parts of the county, including much of Silicon Valley, voted 3 to 2 in favor of the ban after a contentious meeting that included more than an hour of testimony on both sides. In favor of the item were public health administrators, parents and doctors; opposed were fast-food franchisees, other parents, and fans of fast-food toys who said the promotions are often used to provide Christmas presents for poor children..."

I'm all in favor of food reform but would rather see an emphasis on the real roots of the problem and on a solution as opposed to South Park-style bans. Thoughts?

(Thnx x3, Neeks)

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