Happy Meals & Cigarettes: Not Much of a Difference

Maressa Brown

If you live in San Francisco and your youngster has a thing for Megamind figurines, take heart: Mayor Gavin Newsom has vetoed the controversial Happy Meal ban that would have forbidden toys in the kiddie meals, unless they contained less than 639 milligrams of sodium, under 599 calories, and be accompanied by a half-cup of fruit and three-quarters of a cup of vegetables.

After the ban came under fire by the likes of Jon Stewart, Mayor Newsom called it "laudable but imprudent" and said, "I just think [the ban] goes way too far in inserting government to try to be the decision-maker in someone's life as opposed to parents."

Nonetheless, the veto could still be overturned by the city's Board of Supervisors.

I genuinely hope it isn't, because I do think the ban itself would prove to be basically be like Prohibition all over again ... but with Chicken McNuggets being served in playground speakeasies. Nonetheless, I don't think it would be such a bad thing if government were to do more to encourage healthier options. Here's why ...

1. Happy Meal options are sickeningly fattening, extremely sodium-riddled, and high in calories. No current Happy Meal options meet the proposed dietary requirements of the SF ban. That's pretty pathetic. In fact, the average meal clocks in at 400-580 calories and 26 grams of fat. For a 4- to 5-year-old, that's more than half of the average 1,200 daily calories needed and, for a 9-year-old, about 39 percent of their daily calories. It doesn't have to be that way. There are so many healthier, not-fried, not-as-fattening, lower sodium, high fructose corn syrup-free options out there, so why can't national fast food chains get their act together and offer those? 

2. Chemical-laden "food" is a problem for adults and kids alike. If you're OK with taking your chances eating burgers that harbor either "pink slime," E. coli, or ammonia to get rid of the E. coli ... or your kid often munches on this, all I can say is good luck. It baffles me as to why any of these clearly detrimental practices are OKed by the FDA.

3. The "food" is formulated to be addictive. Precise amounts of sugar, fat, salt, and texture are used to create fast food's "hyper-palatability." If a product is intentionally created to make addicts out of a consumer, shouldn't we be warned upfront? Just look at cigarettes' new, huge warning labels. (Only took 'em 50+ years.) What makes fast food any different?

In a nutshell, I'm not advocating doing away with fast food and Happy Meals. I just think it would be good if the government -- and we the people! -- held the fast food industry more accountable for serving up French fried combos of disease.

Are you for or against more regulation of the fast food industry?


Image via Jason Ippolito/Flickr

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