Unhappy Meals in San Francisco

Who knows better how to feed your child--you, the parent, or the government and lobbying do gooders? Well, if you live in San Francisco...well you know the answer to that. And it will cost you, the parent, more.

A law
took effect there Thursday "that prohibits toys included in kids' meals that either contain more than 600 calories, don't include a fruit and vegetable, or include a sugary drink."

In addition to containing fewer than 600 calories, San Francisco's new rules demand that fast food kids meals include fruit and vegetables, unless served at breakfast, and that they have less than 640 mg sodium, less than 35 percent of calories from fat and a beverage that gets less than 10 percent of its calories from added sweeteners. Along with this, less than 35 percent of its calories can be from fat.

So there goes the toy that made a McDonald's Happy Meal even happier because the nanny state government, interfering in a parental right to choose a child's food and a business decision, knows better. Now if the child still wants a toy the parents will have to fork over ten cents more; McDonald's is donating the toy proceeds to its Ronald McDonald House.

But why is McDonald's even bothering with the toys? Silly them; according to a McDonald's representative they believe

we also have a responsibility to give our customers what they want."

"Parents have told us they'd still like the option of purchasing a toy separately for their child when they buy them a Happy Meal or Mighty Kids Meal," she said.

Humpf! Parents! What do they know? Trust the government to know better; trust Corporate Accountability International.

"McDonald's has followed the letter of the law but not the spirit," said Sara Deon, spokeswoman for Corporate Accountability International. "They've taken a cynical approach to the issue of the improving the healthfulness of its kids' meals."

No Ms. Deon, not only is this not cynicism, it is not their job to do this. Nor is it yours.

Nor is this minutiae, this interference in parental choice the duty of government.

Eric Mar, a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors who sponsored the legislation, said that while the ordinance was meant to protect children locally, he believes it has had broader repercussions. He cited July announcements from major food chains, including Burger King, which promised to improve the nutritional composition of kids' meals. He also cited McDonald's decision this year to begin selling Happy Meals with a fruit or vegetable.

The biggest issue, Mar said, was to get fast food companies "to make some acknowledgement that they have a role in the obesity epidemic and they are making changes to make healthier kids' options." He added that these companies "still have a long way to go to meet the nutrition standards set out by the Institute of Medicine."

No again, Mr. Mar, fast food companies, slow food companies do not have a role in the so called obesity epidemic. And neither do you--for others. If you are obese, eat less, exercise more and mind your own business or the obese will accuse you of discrimination.

Good, well run businesses such as McDonald's provide many options, including a salad, a glass of milk--skimmed even. And parents have many options for the type of restaurant to take their children. But the government can't--and shouldn't--force parents to order the salad. And neither should you.

You see Mr. Mar, Ms. Deon, by making these demands you are really displaying your own contempt for mere parents, mere others while artificially inflating your own worth. In other words, you are very dangerous. And that has broader repercussions.