A world without happy meal toys…can we live in such a place?
Yes, the words have been spoken and it is now out there. Imagine: a world where happy meals no longer are served with toys. Can they even be called “happy” meals anymore? The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 to prohibit fast-food restaurants from promoting unhealthy meals with attractive kids toys. Toys are only allowed to be sold with meals that pass certain nutritional standards which include:
- 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 600mg of salt.
- No more than 35% of the caolories can come from fat.
- No more than 10% of total caolries can come from added sugar.
Even meals that offer apple slices as an alternative to fries or tater tots do not currently meet these standards. If the measures receive final approval in May, restaurants will have 90 days to present alternative meals for trimming the fat, salt, sugar and calories in their kids meals. Violators could face fines of up to $1,000.
According to the Los Angeles Times, “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.”
Results from the 2007-2008 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) show that childhood obesity is becoming a national epidemic among our little ones. According to the survey, among pre-school age children 2-5 years of age, obesity increased from 5 to 10.4% between 1976-1980 and 2007-2008 and from 6.5 to 19.6% among 6-11 year olds. Among adolescents aged 12-19, obesity increased from 5 to 18.1% during the same period. Very scary statistics.
There are many out there that are loudly opposing this new fast food policy. Trying to decide how much and what we should allow our government to regulate does seem to be a very hot topic these days. How much is too much? Frankly, I would welcome a few less cheap, easily breakable toys in my house and since my kids are often relegated to a fast food dinner certain nights of the week because of time constraints on our evenings (sports activities for instance), I would definitely appreciate healthier “fast food” options. I think most parents recognize that these toys are not just benign additions to our kids meals. They are advertisers targeted efforts to attract the interest and demand of our children. As a parent, I welcome anything that will help encourage my children (and myself!) to make more nutritional food choices. I also welcome the encouragement it provides businesses to create more nutritionally sound meal options. By only allowing toys to be sold with nutritionally sound meals, we are rewarding kids and parents for wiser food choices and hopefully encouraging food establishments to offer these nutritional meals with more variety and frequency.
I wonder if more counties will fall in line with this philosophy. I am sure there will be many keeping a close eye on the Santa Clara County to measure the results of this new policy. We would love to hear your thoughts on this one as it very well could turn into a national movement. Are you in favor or against restrictions on fast food offerings? Join us in a forum discussion on the topic.