When I was a little kid, I wanted to go to McDonald’s every week to get the newest Happy Meal toy. Sure, the food was yummy, but my main motivation was definitely the toy. Now, toys in Happy Meals and other fast food meals are facing extinction as new legislation is attempting to decrease childhood obesity in our country spreads from San Francisco to other cities, such as New York City.
Many activists – including the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, the Chicago Hispanic Health Coalition, and obesity experts at Tufts University – are claiming that the toys used to promote children’s fast food meals are a main contributor to the childhood obesity epidemic. They claim that these toys encourage children to eat unhealthier meals, such as chicken nuggets and french fries.
Although this can be the case at times (as it was for me when I was younger), banning these restaurants from using toys to promote their products does not seem right to me. McDonald’s, Sonic, and several other fast food restaurants have started offering milk and juice with their kids’ meals instead of soda. They are also offering apple slices instead of french fries. When it comes down to it, it is the parent’s responsibility to monitor what their child eats; the parents allow their children to order sugary sodas and fattening french fries. Banning restaurants from using promotional items will not stop parents from buying their children unhealthy foods.
According to the LA Times, several restaurant industries are now fighting back against this ban. When the Arizona Restaurant Association learned that bills banning toys were being proposed in various states, they asked for the support of the National Restaurant Association to prepare a bill that would make it illegal for the cities or counties in the states to interfere with promotions and incentives that restaurants could use. The bill passed in March and was made into a law in April when the state’s governor, Jan Brewer, signed it.
Recently, fast food restaurants in Florida were facing this problem as well. The chief counselor for the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, Richard Turner, echoes my sentiments from earlier when he said that “it’s ridiculous to blame restaurants for someone’s weight.” This association is supporting a bill that will not allow cities and counties to regulate the nutritional content of the foods that a restaurant serves nor the marketing tactics that restaurant uses to promote said foods.
With many fast food restaurants now offering grilled chicken sandwiches, salads, and healthier drink options, does it really make sense to crack down on them now? It seems like these regulations and restrictions should have been enforced years ago, before these healthier changes were made in many restaurants. Americans know that fast food is not healthy, so it is our fault if we eat too much of it. Banning toys from Happy Meals will not make America’s youth any healthier if their parents continue to buy them unhealthy foods. It’s time for us to own up and accept responsibility for our actions. So, instead of heading to a fast food restaurant for your child’s lunch or your own, consider these healthier options.
by Kelsey Murray
May 20th, 2011