I have been intrigued by the legislation in San Francisco that began banning free toys in Happy Meals on December 1. Besides from being a strange thing to create a law for, I had to wonder how much a happy meal contributes to childhood obesity. So I dug deeper into the issue and what prompted such legislation.
What I have since learned is that this law was initiated by a San Francisco Supervisor who was alarmed to find a large stash of Happy Meal toys in her bedroom. His reasoning to introduce such a bill was that they toy was influencing children to want happy meals to get the toy.
I find this logic is already flawed since it is not the child, but the adult who actually makes the decision to purchase the Happy Meal. Most children want every toy they see on tv commercials, but that certainly doesn’t lead adults to spending every penny to support their child’s toy habit! Also, an independent study showed that while 32% of fast food customers ate at McDonald’s due to their children’s insistence ,only 8% indicated that the free toy was the reason.
The next rationale for this bill is that it would fight childhood obesity. Again, nutritionists disagreed claiming school lunch programs were nutritionally worse than the fast food meals. Additionally, an occasional happy meal was not going to impact obesity to any great extent.
On the nutrition front, McDonald’s has added plain apples to their meals rather than the caramel dipped apples and also decreased the portion size of the fries. This has cut calories by 20%. S o on the one hand I guess it is a good thing to have fast food places offer healthier choices. However, the happy meal toy ban did not cause this change as fast food restaurants have been working on this for the past several years.
One good thing is that the proceeds for the happy meal toys which are now selling for ten cents with the purchase of a happy meal, are all going to the Ronald McDonald House.
Bottom line, I think this latest ban is simply a political move to make people feel good and look good. It really holds no value nor does it have any real impact on the causes it supposedly wants to improve. Sometimes, I just don’t get politics!