McDonald’s has been including free toys in Happy Meals for several decades, but now according to California law McDonald’s can only give free toys with healthy choice meals. The measure in intended to encourage healthy eating and reduce childhood obesity. The issues inherent with the healthy meal only free McDonald’s toy are numerous.
First, maybe you agree that we need to reduce the amount of cheaply made imported toys. Toys made in third world countries rarely adhere to US Consumer Product Safety Commission guidelines, take jobs away from American workers and keep people working in slave labor conditions is good. So banning free junk toys in Happy Meals is good, right. Wrong. The kids still get the free toy; they just have to hop through some hoops to get it (aka, choose the ‘healthy happy meal’).
Next issue: what does a healthy meal consist of, anyway? Who decides? In order to qualify for ‘healthy meal and hence toy added’ status, the meal must contain less than 600 calories. What kind of a benchmark is that? Calories aren’t evil demons; calories are a mathematical unit of measuring energy. What about the ingredients of said ‘low cal’ meal. Milk (and in most cases chocolate milk) and apples go into the healthy Happy meal; french fries and pop go into the toyless UnHappy Meal. But what about the milk? Is it treated with RBST? Are the apples treated with pesticides and cyclamates? McDonald’s has been making an effort, since ‘Supersize Me’ to use cooking oils without trans fat. I’m not saying the 600+ Happy Meal is good for kids. Just that it’s blissful ignorance to suppose that the ‘healthy’ Happy Meal is really any better for a kid. It’s still fast food and processed food. That’s like saying that Fillet ‘o’ Fish is better than a Quarter Pounder because it’s made with fish.
If it’s wrong to put toys in a Happy Meal because it’s ‘bribery’, then isn’t it bribery to get them to eat the healthy Happy Meal? Bribery is bribery. You’re just dangling the carrot a little higher in front of the donkey. And buying the kid Happy Meal, healthy or unhealthy, is no guarantee that he’s going to eat it. I’ve seen those restaurant dumpsters at the end of a day; there’s enough food thrown away to feed that third world nation so those children don’t have to make junk toys for a living.
But the real issue, and you know it as well as I do, is this. This is what gets us in an uproar. Kids aren’t succombing to juvenile diabetes, obesity, heart disease, at younger ages because McDonald’s give toys in their Happy Meals. In fact, Happy Meals aren’t the reason so many kids are overweight. Over-eating, eating only junk food, living on french fries, candy, soda pop, Little Debbies, Twinkies, donuts, sugar, salt, processed food, junk food is the reason that so many people are overweight. When kids can read fast food signs at three but have never eaten a carrot or a spear of broccoli; that’s what makes us fat. When kids sit in front of a computer, a television or XBox all day and never run or play or get outside, that’s what makes us fat.
McDonald’s didn’t make us fat. McDonald’s didn’t make our kids fat. We made ourselves and our kids fat. No one put a gun to our head and said, ‘if you don’t eat those Big Macs every day, you’ve had it’. And putting toys in Happy Meals, healthy or otherwise, is going to have no effect on how people eat.