San Francisco's new ordinance banning free toys that accompany unhealthy restaurant meals has been the catalyst for an incendiary war of words targeting, well, everyone involved.
Opponents are saying that the San Francisco Board of Supervisors are Communists (of course). Supporters are claiming that people who let their kids eat Happy Meals are "bad parents."
And, the media is entering the fray by getting more leverage out of these past insults directed against McDonald's from the always controversial Center for Science in the Public Interest ...
Stephen Gardner, litigation director for the CSPI, compared the fast food chain to a "stranger in the playground handing out candy to children." That's bad, right? And, he didn't stop there:
McDonald’s use of toys undercuts parental authority and exploits young children’s developmental immaturity -- all this to induce children to prefer foods that may harm their health. It’s a creepy and predatory practice that warrants an injunction.
Do you see what's happening here? The fight to help children eat healthier is turning once again into a witch hunt for who's to blame for the nation's soaring childhood obesity rates. Which is further proof that both the ban and the current discussion surrounding it are worthless and ineffectual.
Parents will continue to feed their children fast food -- either because there's no other option or simply because that's what the kids want. And McDonald's will find a way to lure kids into its restaurants -- not in a "creepy, predatory" way but in one that is manipulative all the same.
If we want to have a real conversation about obesity, then maybe we could stop clamoring about parenting styles and the role of government and find ways to address the root of the problem: Make healthy food cheaper, find ways to bring healthy food to areas in which it is lacking, put pressure on fast food restaurants to offer more healthy options. There are several ways to deal with this issue that don't have anything to do with cheap, plastic crap.
This toy ban doesn't go into effect until December 2011. So why not have a productive conversation now and then perhaps there'll actually be a good reason to repeal the ban come December 2011?
Do you think the McDonald's predator comment went too far? What do you think about the free toys ban?
Image via Cosmic Kitty/Flickr