Free Markets, Free People

No Happy Meal for you!

The Nanny State never rests.  In Santa Clara county, California (surprise, surprise) county supervisors are proposing a ban on toys in fast food meals:

Convinced that Happy Meals and other food promotions aimed at children could make kids fat as well as happy, county officials in Silicon Valley are poised to outlaw the little toys that often come with high-calorie offerings.

The proposed ban is the latest in a growing string of efforts to change the types of foods aimed at youngsters and the way they are cooked and sold. Across the nation, cities, states and school boards have taken aim at excessive sugar, salt and certain types of fats.

Believed to be the first of its kind in the nation, the proposal would forbid the inclusion of a toy in any restaurant meal that has more than 485 calories, more than 600 mg of salt or high amounts of sugar or fat. In the case of McDonald’s, the limits would include all of the chain’s Happy Meals — even those that include apple sticks instead of French fries.

Because Nanny knows best, one size fits all,  and besides you parents out there are just incompetent.

Supporters say the ban would encourage restaurants to offer more-nutritious foods to kids and would make unhealthful items less appealing. But opponents believe it amounts to government meddling in parental decisions. The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors will consider the proposal Tuesday.

Anyone – do you really believe that taking a toy out of a meal will make the meal “less appealing”, or do you suppose the taste of the meal has more to do with the appeal and the toy is just a bonus.  Or ask another way, if you take the kids to McD’s and toys are no longer available, will they order or want something other than what is normally found in a Happy Meal.

My four grandson survey says “no”.  But the nanny’s will not be denied:

Ken Yeager, the Santa Clara County supervisor who is behind the effort, says the toys in kids’ meals are contributing to America’s obesity epidemic by encouraging children to eat unhealthful, fattening foods.

“People ask why I want to take toys out of the hands of children,” said Yeager, who is president of the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors. “But we now know that 70% of the kids that are overweight or obese will be overweight or obese as adults. Why would we want to burden anybody with a lifetime of chronic illness?”

Who is “we” Mr. Yeager and by what right do you reach down into a retail establishment and decide what it can or can’t offer to its customers? Just as importantly, since when is it the role of government to decide what is or isn’t appropriate for someone to eat?

This is just the beginning of what you can expect to see from the food nazis (the FDA and salt?) now that government health care reform is law.



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31 Responses to No Happy Meal for you!

  • My kids hate going someplace without a toy — even though the toy inevitably disappoints.   Slightly older kids even know which fast food places have which toys, and choose where to go because of  that.  So obviously yes, for kids the toys make the food more appealing.  That said, adults have the power to say no, the toys certainly do not make things more appealing for parents.   The ban is really due to parents being too willing to simply follow the wishes of their children (a temptation I understand) rather than use their authority to decide which food to buy for dinner.

    • Yeah, that’s a GREAT reason for the ban.  The parents aren’t doing what the Govt wants, so it’s time to to take the “choice” out of their hands

      What lunacy

  • I guess if I owned a McDonalds just over the county line in Fremont or East Palo Alto I’d expect a big jump in my business from Happy Meal sales.

  • The toys are more to get the kids to pester the parents into McDonalds instead of BurgerKing or viceversa. It doesn’t change if you are going to a fast food joint or a restaurant just which one you goto.

  • Toys have sucked in Happy Meals for years anyway.  It is hard to argue that the toy is not a marketing ploy to get the kids to influence their parent’s purchasing decisions, but the proposal is an overstep of the authority granted the county employees.
    Not to mention that the proposal itself misses the real problem, which is the marketing.
    Without stopping the commercials hocking these toys from playing in the county the only thing it would serve to do is drive business and sales tax revenue away from the county.

    • There has been a lot of research on how marketers try to reach children, especially since brand recognition starts at age two.  Some parents cut off TV and other influences to protect their children from manipulation, but while that works for awhile my own view is that children have to learn how to handle those efforts — and parents have to be willing to say no and explain why.   I think children have a huge influence on buying decisions, in part because post-boomer parents tend to have fewer children and want to satisfy them.   In other words, children set the implicit rules.   Marketers also want to appeal to that weakness (e.g., if you don’t have Michelin tires you’re not giving your child maximum safety).    One sees it in helicopter parents who want to control a child’s education and fight battles for children in schools and even colleges.
      So yeah, children are getting too fat, McDonalds is marketing to manipulate children, and parents give in.   It’s a symptom of a larger cultural problem; banning happy meals doesn’t solve anything.

      • Agreed.

      • But daddy!  The polar bears!

      • and they get the left wing marketing for 6 hours at the public schools…which then serves them unhelathy food that rival Mcdonald’s as well.
        My kid likes McDonald’s but not for the toys. Her best chance to get it is if I want some bad food too. But then I get the toy because its fun.
        Of course in Asia, the people who get the toy are young women who need to collect every version of the toy. How can we ban Hello Kitty to save them?

  • Next … no olives in martinis

  • Since the Law of Unintended consequences has not been repealed, the obvious benefit to McDonalds is that these toys (or lack thereof) goes right to their bottom line.
    Once again, government teams up with corporate America to screw the little guy .. or kids.
    Damn those Santa Clara county supervisors .. corporate sellouts

    • Well, that awful John Wayne Gaceyish clown Mickey D’s uses to advertise panders to the kiddies.  How long until that’s banned on these same grounds?  And the “playlands” they have? Don’t those also entice kiddies?

      And who does this “hurt” exactly? Mickey D’s will still sell plenty of kids meals. Disney or Pixar or whoever will find another way to promote their movies if they can’t throw those toys in a happy meal. Nothing will be solved, nothing will be changed, it’s just one more useless regulation on the books that has no business being there

  • This is a non-issue.  Those parents can simply go to a nearby garage sale and buy toys for their children!

  • It’s not a nationwide ban.  A city has their own right to make their own laws, and if its citizens don’t like those laws, they can vote in new leaders.
    I don’t live in Santa Clara, but I support their right to make their own laws.

    • So obviously you’d be fine with Santa Clara County deciding that it was illegal to sell fast food? Or, oh I don’t know, not allow the sale of certain foods in the grocery store? Or, um, how about no Hispanics allowed in the county? Fine with you? Just wait till the next election?

      • How much power do you want to give local authorities?  Both left and right like it when the locals can do something they agree with.   They dislike it when it goes the other way.  Banning happy meals may be dumb, but saying the local government can’t do that is to impose an external limit on what local government can do.   Your implied slippery slope argument doesn’t make sense — the issue is where the limits of local power are, not a strict limit vs. no limits.

    • I agree within the (increasingly narrow, it seems) bounds of what is permitted by the Constitution.

      McQSo obviously you’d be fine with Santa Clara County deciding that it was illegal to sell fast food? Or, oh I don’t know, not allow the sale of certain foods in the grocery store? Or, um, how about no Hispanics allowed in the county?

      On the first two examples, yes.  States, counties, and municipalities do and have long had their own laws about such things*.  We may consider some of them foolish or ill-conceived and hope that our own local authorities don’t get any similar ideas, but our federal system is intended to allow this sort of autonomy.

      As to the last, rather overblown example, this would be a clear violation of the Constitution (as are, IMO, laws preventing citizens from legally carrying their firearms where they wish in accordance with the Second Amendment, but that’s another issue), though I am reasonably certain that such laws were on the books at various time and in various places in our history (“no Irish need apply”).


      (*) Consider liquor laws.  One can legally buy hard liquor only at special, government-controlled stores in No. Carolina.  Until recently, my wife’s home county in western NC was “dry”.  When I visited friends in New Jersey, I was astounded to see bottles of liquor on grocery store shelves.  I was even more astounded when I visited New Orleans and found that one can get liquor by the drink in drive-throughs.  These are all examples of routine exercize of local authority to determine whether and where people may buy a certain commodity.

      • Of course the foods I’m talking about are much more basic – whatever the county arbitrarily decides has too much salt, too much sugar or well, you name it. Again, in the name of “cost control” in health care, the door is wide open. As for the last – it was to address the claim that local governments should be able to make whatever laws they decide to make and the voters can just vote ’em out next election if they don’t like them. In that context, the example was hardly overblown.

        • In general, the remedy for bad laws IS the ballot box (as I deeply hope Imeme and his gang will find out to their cost in November).  While the courts have a role in determining if a law violates some higher law, the concept of our republic relies on popular vote.  Unfortunately, this from time to time results in some VERY bad laws; I would say that a law banning Happy Meals is one such, not only because it’s foolish on its face, but also because it represents yet another manifestation of the hated nanny state.

  • My kids go for the toys in a big way, to the point of focusing more on the toys than the food and often leaving the meal partially uneaten.  My guess is that without the distraction of the toy, they’d eat the whole thing instead.  Which, according to Bay Area logic, would make them … thinner?