On Nov. 2, 2010, the effort to fight childhood obesity gained momentum. On that day, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted 8-3 to require that kids' meals meet certain nutritional standards before they can be sold with toys.1 The ban is similar to the one passed by Santa Clara County last April.2 And while San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsome vetoed the ban (as he had threatened to do from the outset), the 8-3 vote meant the board could uphold its ruling with a repeat vote, which it did by the same 8-3 margin only days following the mayor's veto.
In addition to the above actions, the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest is expected to file a lawsuit against the McDonald's corporation in an effort to force McDonald's to stop "unfair and deceptive acts and practices by advertising and including toys with purchases of Happy Meals."4-5
So, now we have a city, a county and an impending lawsuit demanding that the McDonald's corporation stop using toys to entice children to eat unhealthy meals. And while this all may seem a bit overblown, consider the current plight of American children. It is no secret that childhood obesity is on the rise in the U.S., with one in eight Caucasian children and one in four Hispanic/African-American children considered obese or overweight.6
What should McDonald's and every other food seller do? It's more than obvious. Put toys only in healthy meals. Reward children for eating nutritious meals with fruits, vegetables and milk instead of French fries and sodas.
Like a dentist giving out candy for good behavior during a checkup, the McDonald's corporation has taught children poor eating habits for more than 30 years. It has made billions of dollars using toys to encourage children to eat junk food. Our society is just beginning to pay out the trillions of dollars that will be required for the health care costs associated with the increased cases of diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers that can be the result of being overweight and obese.
It's time the McDonald's corporation became a responsible citizen and began teaching children proper eating habits. If it (and other fast-food companies) begin now, we could see a reversal in the trend of childhood obesity before the year 2030. The impact of such a reversal in terms of our nation's health (and health care costs) would be monumental, considering a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that by 2050, up to 33 percent of the U.S. population will suffer from diabetes - a known consequence of obesity.
Nutritional Information For McDonald's "Healthy" Happy Meals*
|Calories||Fat (g)||Sat. Fat (g)||Carbohydrates (g)||Sodium (mg)||Sugar (g)||Dietary Fiber (g)|
|Hamburger, "Apple Dippers" (apples) with low-fat caramel dip, and 1% low-fat milk (8 fl. oz.)||450||12||5||66||680||33||2|
|Hamburger, apples, apple juice (6.75 fl. oz.)||440||9||3.5||77||570||43||2|
|Chicken McNuggets (4 pc), apples, 1% milk||390||15||4||46||570||27||0|
|Chicken McNuggets, apples, apple juice||380||12||2.5||57||460||37||0|
|Cheeseburger, apples, 1% milk||500||15||8||67||920||33||2|
|Cheeseburger, apples, apple juice||490||13||6||79||810||43||2|
*By comparison, McDonald's standard Happy Meals featuring French fries and 1% chocolate milk (8 fl. oz.) or Sprite (12 fl. oz.) instead of Apple Dippers and plain milk / juice have up to 700 calories, 27 grams of fat and 1,060 mg sodium, depending on the meal. However, most standard meals also feature lower sugar content and higher fiber content than the so-called "healthy" options.
- "Law Curbs McDonald's Happy Meal Toys." Reuters, Nov. 3, 2010. www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE6A16PR20101103
- "It's a Sad Day for Happy Meals in Santa Clara County." Los Angeles Times, April 28, 2010. http://articles.latimes.com/2010/apr/28/business/la-fi-happy-meals-20100428
- Nutrition Information for McDonald's Happy Meals. http://nutrition.mcdonalds.com/nutritionexchange/Happy_Meals_Nutrition_List.pdf
- Center for Science in the Public Interest. Letter to McDonald's Corporation dated June 22, 2010. http://cspinet.org/new/pdf/mcdonalds-demand-062210.pdf
- "Taking a Stand Against Childhood Obesity." Dynamic Chiropractic, Aug. 26, 2010; Volume 28, Issue 18. www.dynamicchiropractic.com/mpacms/dc/article.php?id=54835
- "Dramatic Rise in Childhood Obesity." To Your Health research summary, reporting on a 2001 JAMA study by Strauss RS,et al. www.toyourhealth.com/mpacms/tyh/article.php?id=468
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