Taking the "Happy" out of Happy Meals? San Francisco takes the first step in banning toys from fast food kid's meals.

It's hard to recall a time when childhood didn't involve fishing greasy, plastic-wrapped, toys out of greasy paper bags.  Cracker jacks have included "toys" (i.e. a bogus sticker or "comic") since 1912, sugary breakfast cereals got on the bandwagon in the 1950's, and McDonald's just followed the trend by introducing the Happy Meal in the 1980's.

Well, those halcyon days of food companies plying high profit margin, nutritionally questionable food to kids though their love of toys may be coming to an end.  The San Francisco Board of Supervisors recently took preliminary steps towards banning toy giveaways unless fast foot companies cut calories, salt, and sugar from their kid's meals.

Before anyone starts crying "communists!" it deserves noting that the regulations are pretty forgiving.  If companies want to include a toy, the meal must contain less than 600 calories.  According to the American Heart Association, 4-8 year old children should consume between 1,200 and 1,400 calories a day.  That means a 500 calorie kids meal (which would be permitted to include a toy) still satisfies 45-35% of a child's daily caloric requirement.

Predictably, McDonald's is fighting the proposed legislation, but by creating a system that makes the well-being of kids more of a priority, we all benefit.  The right of kids to live a happy life supersedes the "right" a company such as McDonald's has to sell "happy" meals. 

UPDATE:

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted "yes" to the regulation of fast food kids meals.  In addition to restricting calorie content and added sugar, kid's meals that include toys will also have to include fruits and vegetables.  The ordinance will officially go into effect December 2011.  McDonald's representatives stated that they believe this measure is "out of the mainstream" and  http://articles.latimes.com/2010/nov/02/business/la-fi-happy-meals-20101103

(Pictures of Ronald McDonald getting arrested from Idiotbrain.com)
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About Tony Fed

Tony is the host of the Paleo Magazine Radio podcast, author of "Paleo Grilling: A Modern Caveman's Guide to Cooking with Fire", and Cofounder of Powerful PT, an innovative information resource for Fitness Professionals. He has appeared on numerous local and national television and radio broadcasts and regularly hosts healthy cooking workshops and informational lectures. He is also a full-time Personal Trainer and Wellness Consultant who lives in Jacksonville Florida with his wife Jamie.
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