A Very, Very Small Victory

quixote Today, a law that prevents toys from being included in children’s meals that exceed 600 calories and lack fruit or vegetables goes into effect in the City and County of San Francisco. Pushed by liberal lobbying groups like the oxymoronically-named Corporate Responsibility International, the idea behind such ordinances is that regulating happy meal giveaways is somehow a “step forward” in the effort to end childhood obesity and type II diabetes.

The entirely predictable response by fast food marketers? Per Advertising Age:

McDonald’s, the world’s largest restaurant chain, will stop giving out Hello Kitty figurines or any other toys with its Happy Meals in San Francisco starting tomorrow because of a new city ordinance.

“A law was passed recently that means we cannot give away a free toy with our Happy Meals” at the 19 McDonald’s stores in San Francisco, [McDonald’s] spokeswoman Danya Proud said in an e-mailed statement today. Parents can buy a toy for 10 cents along with a Happy Meal or Mighty Kids Meal, she said.

Wow! The revolution is upon us now, isn’t it?

But, seriously, what a mess. In the name of the patently silly idea that free toys are a major cause of the obesity and diabetes epidemic, activists have succeeded in enacting what will amount to a ten cent tax on poor people. Meanwhile, those same poor people will absolutely continue to buy happy meals, for the same old reasons, which are far larger and deeper than the mere unawareness attributed to them by the gesturing activists lobbying for addlepated regulations.

Personally, I’d wager the dime charge might actually do the very opposite of what the toy-banners thought they were accomplishing. By raising the topic of whether or not to get a toy and by associating it with a price, mightn’t the new arrangement make the toy forbidden (but not really) fruit, and hence an even better vehicle for inculcating brand loyalty?

In the process, the contortions needed to pretend that the SF happy meal law is anything but a pointless pose forces otherwise excellent people to become liars:

[McDonald’s move to offer toys for a dime is] “Proof positive, and completely admitted by McDonalds, that no customer will buy a Happy Meal unless it comes with a toy,” Dr. Marion Nestle, professor of nutrition, food studies, and public health at New York University, told CBS News in an email.

Dr. Nestle, people aren’t stupid. If the toys were absent, a great many people would most certainly still buy happy meals. So, why insist the contrary? Are you trying to discredit the idea of creating a better society?

The prevalence of fast food is a symptom, not the disease.

2 Replies to “A Very, Very Small Victory”

  1. It’s like looking at the high-calorie, high-fat meal and blaming it all on the diet soda (which is still unhealthy).

    Besides, the “Happy Meal” is nothing more than brand marketing of whatever kid-centered crap is being peddled at the time. What better way to advertise than to “give” away something for free (or, in San Fran’s case, 10 cents)? Given McDonald’s response, I would not be surprised at all if the “10 cents for the toy” idea doesn’t eventually spread elsewhere.

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