Are the characters from the new animated hit “Megamind” making kids gain weight? Are Shrek and Barbie discouraging children from learning healthy eating habits? The powers that be in San Francisco believe that is the case.
Recently the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed an ordinance banning toy incentives in fast food meals that do not meet minimum nutritional standards. McDonald’s Happy Meal, a popular menu item since its introduction in 1979, would be among those affected.
Conceived by advertising manager Dick Brams, the Happy Meal was intended as a meal for kids, giving them their own food instead of having to share with mom and dad. Over the years, the Happy Meal toys became more important than the food, especially with adult collectors.
The San Francisco city ordinance also isn’t the first time the Happy Meal caused some people to frown.
During the Beanie Baby craze of the late 1990s, McDonald’s offered a series of “Teenie Beanie Babies” in Happy Meals. From week-to-week during the promotion, stores would offer different plush toys until their supply ran out.
In some areas, though, crazed collectors would buy several Happy Meals, discarding the food portion in a parking lot dumpster while keeping all the toys. In 1998, Sgt. Dan Mastro of the LAPD worked with the restaurant on a plan to sell just the toys to collectors who didn’t want a meal.
Based on the photographs of Sally Davies, though, one has to wonder if it is better to eat a Beanie Baby than the burger inside the Happy Meal box.
Earlier this year, Davies, a New York City photographer, took photographs of what was supposed to be the biological destruction of a fast food meal. After 137 days, though, the seemingly indestructible burger and fries from McDonald’s took on a plastic sheen and consistency (see photos from the project here).
Busy parents like Happy Meals because they are fairly consistent and offer children some variety (e.g. chicken nuggets instead of a burger). In some instances, though, the meal comes with an unexpected prize.
In 2009, one seven-year-old girl in Switzerland received a little something extra in Happy Meal. While eating her fries, the unnamed child discovered a condom nestled in with the french fries. According to the Associated Press, local police were determining if the condom posed a health risk.
Two years earlier, a young girl in Wellington, New Zealand, found a green condom inside her Happy Meal. This particular McDonald’s restaurant offered a prepackaged sports bag as an incentive, but this particular bag came equipped with a condom.