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Fast Food Wars: Is it a Losing Battle?

There’s a war going on between public officials, health advocates and the fast food industry. Fast food is winning.

San Francisco is supporting a measure to ban toys in fast food meals. The measure, designed to combat childhood obesity, is set to take place in December 2011.

But for anyone quick to make a knee-jerk reaction about the politics behind all of this, remember we now live in a black and white society where issues are supported purely by liberals or conservatives; and San Francisco’s mayor wants to veto the measure.

“Parents, not politicians, should decide what their children eat,” he said, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

The social libertarian in me sides with the mayor, in part because there are parents who take part in the occasional drive-thru with their kids (including the person typing these words), but don’t overdo it. Should our decisions be taken out of our hands because of other people’s overindulgences?

While that may sound perfectly logical, it may not be that cut and dry. The fact of the matter is there are many societal factors that influence the majority of parents. We’re overworked, underpaid, and often just don’t have time. All of this leads to many people making very bad dietary decisions.

“So what?” you say. “It’s their choice, right?”

Sure, but what is the cost – to everyone? Healthcare costs are spiraling out of control, due in large part to the fact that, like it or not, many of us are influenced by the billion dollar food industry and our busy lifestyles. This has us more obese than ever and it’s playing a large part in bankrupting the system.

Do we side with total freedom with the strong likelihood that it could ruin our country in the process, or do we take small measures that may make incremental positive changes to our food choices? I don’t know what actions will work, but we have try something, don’t we?

I’m not here to say that no toys in your Happy Meals will mean people will stop going to McDonald’s three times a week. I’m just saying that maybe we should stop looking at the problem as one side of the argument being totally in the right and the other completely wrong.

The fast food industry isn’t going to lie down and submit anytime soon. According to a new study, kids are being bombarded with fast food ads more than ever, and from every direction on the TV and the web. Here are just a handful of the findings from researchers at the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity at Yale University in Connecticut:

  • Preschoolers saw 21 percent more fast food ads in 2009 than they did in 2003; teens saw 39 percent more. The average preschooler (2 to 5 years old) saw 2.8 television fast food ads every day; children from 6 to 11 years old saw 3.5 fast-food ads a day. Kids 12 and older saw 4.7 such ads every day.
  • Fast food is Americana… 84 percent of parents said they take their children to a fast-food restaurant at least once a week, and 66 percent said they went to a McDonald’s in the past week.
  • The fast-food industry spent more than 4.2 billion dollars in 2009 on TV advertising and other media.
  • Marketing to children did not encourage kids to eat healthier foods, rather it focused on toy giveaways and building brand loyalty.

I don’t know, maybe we’re damned if we do and damned if we don’t, but shouldn’t we go down with a fight?

(via: MoneyControl.com & News24.com)

November 11th, 2010