Santa Clara County just became the first in the entire country to ban toys from appearing as giveaways in kids meals that don't fit certain nutritional guidelines, according to CNN.
Restaurants have offered cheap, plastic toys as collectibles for years, and some have argued that the obviously direct marketing to children is unethical at worst, and disingenuous at best. Collectible toys gets kids thinking that they need to buy the food to get the toy, and before you know it, they're hooked on the french fries, cheeseburgers, and sugary drinks offered in the kid-sized meals. At least that's how the argument goes. The new law won't require that fast food outlets get rid of the toys altogether, it just bans them from including the toys in the kids-sized meals that have over 485 calories. Stores have a 90-day grace period to implement the law.
While some will certainly wonder about whether or not the government should interfere in practices like this, it's hard to deny that the idea of giving away a collectible toy, often tied into promotions with kids movies or television shows, is meant to turn children into repeat customers.
No matter what, the unprecedented move will probably get half the people worked up, thinking the government is invading their lives. The other half will be glad that something has been done to give America's children some kind of defense against big corporations who prey on their uneducated minds. One county supervisor, quoted in the CNN piece, mentions the link
between food and prizes. That's exactly the bond that needs to be
broken. Everyone should agree that at least eliminating that association is a good place to start in reducing the next generation's affinity for the kind of empty calories that have spawned our insane childhood obesity rate. Since 1980, that figure has tripled.
Many angry with the law - and there are plenty of those people out there - seem willing to defend their right to fall in line behind a big company and its practices. It's probably worth it to take a look at some of the ads that have gone out since 1980.
I'm sure this kind of promotion, with fifteen collectible figures ("one for every happy meal you buy," cheerily says the ad) has clearly never gotten a kid either introduced to, or hooked on junk food.
This one, either. Everyone's overreacting, obviously.
K, last one.