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NYC Next to Ban Toys in Unhealthy Fast Food Meals (i.e. Happy Meals)?

new york city mcdonalds happy meal toy ban

If you’ve been a regular reader of Eat Drink Better, you know that we covered the San Francisco Happy Meal toy ban pretty extensively. And in December, I wrote a story titled “More Happy Meal Toy Bans on the Way?” in response to some push in Wisconsin to enact a similar ban.

Well, now, a little city in the Northeast that sometimes goes by the nickname “the Big Apple” is looking at implementing a similar ban as well. Yeah, you may have heard of this place, officially called New York City (formerly New Amsterdam).

New York City Makin’ a Move

New York City Council Deputy Majority Leader Leroy Comrie (D) is proposing a ban similar to the one San Francisco enacted.

“The ban would prohibit distribution of toys with any meal that has more than 500 calories, 600 milligrams of sodium, and 35 percent of calories from fat. If passed, the ban would become law by 2012,” Katie Dawson of Earth Eats writes.

“While I recognize that ensuring children have access to, and eat more, nutritious meals is ultimately the responsibility of their caretakers, the City Council can empower parents by making it harder for the fast food industry to target children with predatory marketing techniques,” Comrie said in a statement. He’s clearly aware of the #1 argument against such bans, the argument that Big Government is crossing boundaries in “telling people what they should feed their children.” But there is something completely missed by such arguments, that I wrote about a few months ago after reading a great commentary on this by Marion Nestle. In particular, she wrote:

The idea that government has no role in food choice is ludicrous. The government is intimately involved in food choices through policies that make the cost of some foods—those containing subsidized corn or soybeans, for example—cheaper than others.

It is not an accident that five dollars at McDonald’s will buy you five hamburgers or only one salad. It is not an accident that the indexed price of fruits and vegetables has increased by 40% since the early 1980s, whereas the indexed price of sodas has decreased by 30%. Right now, agricultural policies support our present industrialized food system and strongly discourage innovation and consumption of relatively unprocessed foods.

Agricultural policies are the results of political decisions that can be changed by political will. If we want agricultural policies aligned with health policies—and I certainly do—we need to exercise our democratic rights as citizens and push for changes that are healthier for people and the planet.

Totally!

Why Ban Toys in Happy Meals (or other unhealthy fast food meals)?

If you haven’t heard, the U.S. is in the midst of an obesity epidemic (literally), and childhood obesity has risen dramatically in recent years (it might make you sick at your stomach if you saw the details, the increasing rates of childhood obesity in recent decades).

Now, that might not be reason enough to ban toys from McDonald’s Happy Meals, but the fact that advertising to kids in such a way is predatory marketing, and illegal (combined with the public health problems it’s partially causing) should be enough to convince any group of reasonable people no overly addicted to McDonald’s to support and implement such a ban.

We’ll see what happens in NYC.

Your thoughts?

h/t Urban Organic Gardener

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Photos via mooshkie altgeldM.V. Jantzen

4 comments
  1. Chris DeMorro

    Just more passing of responsibility from parents to businesses. Got a fat kid? Stop taking him/her to McDonalds, no matter how much they want that toy.

    Ah but that would require actual parenting. And instead of banning the bad-for-you-food, lets ban toys! Because that makes sense.

    1. Katie Campbell

      I think it’s a step in the right direction. It certainly won’t solve all the problems, but it may help and could inspire greater change in time.

      Our country didn’t get fat overnight, and it’s going to take more than a few measures to undue the harm caused by over-processed and unhealthy foods.

      I’d rather see no toys in unhealthy meals than have the government find some way to control parenting.

      There are bad parents in this world and there always have been. Certainly it should be their responsibility, but pointing the finger in favor of taking action hasn’t solved much.

  2. Lauren

    Interesting perspective, but I have to disagree. Although the obesity epidemic is a huge crisis for our country, the government should focus more on educational efforts to inform parents and children about healthy food efforts. Taking away happy meal toys will have little effect on childhood obesity if parents continue to take kids to fast food restaurants on a regular basis. Here’s my take: http://community.advanceweb.com/blogs/cp_1/archive/2011/04/08/happy-meal-toy-ban-misses-the-mark.aspx

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