Free Markets, Free People

Happy Meal


SF’s attack on Happy Meal’s is an attack on freedom

It is nanny-staters like Joe Ozersky who drive me up a wall.  They represent that group of people with mindset that common Americans simply don’t have the ability and wherewithal to run their own lives or those of their families.  And, as expected, they applaud government’s unrequested and unwanted intrusion in their lives to control aspects (or modify behavior) that they simply cannot fathom real Americans doing.  Or at least not doing to their satisfaction.

Ozersky has decided obesity is a problem (he apparently was a fat kid who ate lots of hamburgers).  Ozersky has decided that one of the main reasons for the problems is fast (processed) food and in particular McDonald’s Happy Meals.  So Ozersky is just tickled to death that the intrusive board of supervisors in San Francisco has chosen to ban Happy Meals.  He correctly identifies the source of such intrusion:

Last week’s elections may have seemed like a repudiation of liberalism, but the San Francisco board of supervisors appeared unfazed. The city’s governing body went ahead and fired a bunker buster into the Happy Meal, decreeing that restaurants cannot put free toys in meals that exceed set thresholds for calories, sugar or fat.

One of the reasons liberalism, or in its new incarnation, "progressivism" is in such disrepute is because of foolishness like this. Ozersky’s next line claims "libertarians are livid".

Everyone should be "livid". Since when is it up to a city board of supervisors – elected to keep the peace and make sure the garbage is picked up on time – to decide what is or isn’t appropriate to feed one’s child?

Ozersky, however, applauds the effort but believes it is just a beginning and, in fact, needs to go further:

No, the problem with the ban is that it doesn’t go far enough. America’s tots aren’t getting supersized simply by eating Happy Meals. In a recent nutrition commentary that is making waves in food-politics circles, in part because NYU’s Marion Nestle posted excerpts of it on her blog, University of São Paulo professor Carlos Monteiro makes the case that "the rapid rise in consumption of ultra-processed food and drink products, especially since the 1980s, is the main dietary cause of the concurrent rapid rise in obesity and related diseases throughout the world." And reversing that trend will be a lot harder than making Happy Meals a little less happy.

But still, you have to start somewhere, and I understand why the San Francisco supervisors picked Happy Meals as their beachhead.

So the war, apparently is on "processed food", all of which Ozersky would prefer to see eliminated. But is processed food really the culprit behind the obesity "epidemic". Ozersky cites Nestle’s work as a definitive yes. However, a nutrition professor recently shot the claim in the head with an experiment he ran on himself:

Mark Haub, who teaches at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kan., told FoxNews.com he has lost 27 pounds in two months eating approximately 1,800 calories a day – and those calories came from foods like snack cakes, candy bars and even potato chips – basically anything he could get from a vending machine.

Haub said before the diet, he was eating up to 3,000 calories a day and weighed 201 pounds.

Key take away – it isn’t necessarily the type of food that makes you obese – it is the amount of that food, in calories, that does so. Always has been.

The point, of course, is obesity is caused by eating too many calories and not exercising sufficiently to burn off the excess.  Banning Happy Meals won’t change that at all.  As Tanya Zuckerbrot, a NY dietician noted, “it doesn’t matter if you’re eating Twinkies or Brussels sprouts – it’s all about your caloric intake.”

And unless the state plans on issuing meals and monitoring your every bite, banning a specific meal isn’t going to  change the habits that have caused someone to become obese.  Nor will bans on salt, sugary drinks or any other choice the nanny-staters think they can take from the public.  It is a fairly simple concept to understand – “The laws of thermodynamics dictate that if you consume fewer calories than your body burns, you will create a caloric deficit resulting in weight loss.”

Yet those like Ozersky choose to ignore it in favor of government action to take choices and freedoms away from people.  McDonalds is obviously – at least in progressive circles – an evil purveyor of bad “processed” food.  And progressives believe it is their sworn duty to protect you from yourself and those corporations which prey on you.

Why?  Because you’re brainwashed:

Again and again, efforts to promote fresh fruit and produce in low-income urban areas have failed for the simple reason that Americans have been brainwashed. We have been conditioned, starting in utero, to prefer high-fat, high-salt, high-sugar concoctions rather than their less exciting, more natural culinary cousins.

Really?  I simply don’t recall that as being conditioned preference of mine.  Instead, visits to places such as McDonalds were irregular and not particularly common.  They were “treats” on occasion.  But they were hardly conditioning me for such a diet.

Where such conditioning takes place, if anywhere, is in the home.   It is there the bulk of all food is consumed and, pretty much, in the quantities desired.  It is there where children (and adults) are either encouraged to be active or left to decide for themselves (play outside or do XBox) their activity level. 

Banning toys in Happy Meals is simply an intrusion with no effect.  It’s an exercise in power, nothing more.  It has no beneficial effect and it is another in a long line of government imposed restrictions on freedom. 

In his conclusion, Ozersky asks, “And why are eight people in San Francisco the only ones who seem willing to step up and do something unpopular to address such a serious issue?”

Because they’re as enamored with the power they wield as Ozersky seems to be and just as clueless. This isn’t about doing anything to address a "serious issue". This is an exercise in power cloaked in some feel good nonsense.  It is about a group of people who feel they are entitled by their position to decide what is or isn’t acceptable for others and how those others should live their lives. This isn’t about doing something good, this is about stretching the envelope and seeing if they can get away with it.

If in fact they are allowed too, you can spend hours imagining what they’ll next decide you’re too stupid to realize or control and need their enlightened and progressive hand to stay you from your self-destructive ways.

Freedom is choice – and this bunch of progressives are all about limiting choice.

ASIDE: check out the comments to the Ozersky article.  Heartening.

~McQ


Happy Meal toy ban followup

You remember the story yesterday about Santa Clara county’s desire to ban toys in meals the board of supervisors had decided were unhealthy?

They’ve passed the provision:

On Tuesday, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors took action by prohibiting fast-food restaurants from using toys to lure kids into buying unhealthy meals. The vote was 3-2.

Have to love the “reporting”.  Obviously a supporter of arbitrary government intervention the LA Times’ Karen Kaplan gives us another example of unbiased reporting:

Not surprisingly, the toy ban has angered folks who resent government efforts to help Americans eat healthier.

And if you’re wondering, the link above brings you right back to the QandO story yesterday on this subject.  I, of course, make no bones about being biased, never have – this is more “nanny state goodness”.  You see, Ms. Kaplan obviously thinks it is the role of government to “help Americans eat healthier” even if it means banning things.  My guess is she’d not be quite as ready for government bans it they had to do with, oh I don’t know, books or something similar.

The excuse?

In Santa Clara County, one out of every four kids is either overweight or obese. Among 2- to 5-year-olds from low-income families, the rate is one in three. The county health system spends millions of dollars a year treating kids for health problems related to obesity, and the tab is growing.

If you haven’t yet figured out that the passage of ObamaCare has emboldened the nannies at all levels, this ought to make the case.  Trust me, this reporter didn’t dig this nugget out.  It was handed to her by those trying to justify this power grab.

Anyway, how will this work?  Well, just as the FDA is going to be fiddling with the salt content in your favorite spaghetti sauce, the board of supervisors – all board certified nutritionists I’m sure – have decided on these criteria for a “trinket” to be included in order to “lure kids into buying” the meal:

In order to combine trinkets with burgers, chicken nuggets or other children’s fare, a meal must meet some basic nutritional requirements. Among them:

– No single food item can contain more than 200 calories, the drink cannot have more than 120 calories, and the entire meal cannot exceed 485 calories.

– No single item can contain more than 480 milligrams of salt, and the entire meal is limited to 600 mg of salt.

– No more than 35% of the calories can come from fat.

– No more than 10% of total calories can come from added sugar.

What has to be understood here is this is one of those precedent setters – if you give the Board of Supervisors this without a fight, how can you deny them the right, next time, to go after something else? Legitimate question. Because you know if they win this, there’s very little to restrain them from managing the rest of your life.

So where does this fight have to be won now that the board of supervisors have voted? Well thankfully it has to be approved again at a second Board of Supervisors meeting in May. If the article cited is to be believed, a poll shows 80% of the county opposes the ban. A bunch of that 80% needs to be in attendance at that BoS meeting next month and tell the emboldened nanny to butt out.

~McQ