From the editor

Informed choice

May 10, 2010
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Taking the toys out of happy meals? Let's just use nutrition labels instead.

Next month, board members will vote on a proposal to ban toys from fast food kids meals in Santa Clara County, Calif., according to an article on The argument is that childhood obesity is a growing concern and toys are being used as an incentive to draw kids in to buying fatty foods. My question is: are children walking into fast food restaurants by themselves and buying a happy meal?

The article points out that a study conducted by the Federal Trade Commission “estimates that restaurants sold more than a billion meals accompanied by toys to children under 12.” Obviously these children don’t have a driver’s license, which means an adult is the one bringing them there. With all the pressure from consumers, the government and organizations regarding healthier food alternatives, I think most restaurants are smart enough to have a few healthy options for children and adults.

So if that’s the case, isn’t it up to parents to purchase the healthier alternatives for their kids? Or just moderate how much fast food they’re eating? I’m not trying to say it’s parents’ faults alone. But taking the toys out of happy meals certainly won’t make kids ask for a healthier option. Even if you strip the meal of its kid-friendly packaging (say goodbye to characters like Ronald McDonald and the Hamburglar), kids would still likely prefer a hamburger and fries to a salad or chicken wrap.

All in all, when it comes to marketing to children or parents, transparency is key. Parents want to know exactly what’s in the products they’re feeding their children-the good and the bad. And it’s up to the packaging to portray that.

Maybe, instead of taking all the fun out of kids meals, nutrition statements would do the trick? Everyone knows that fast food isn’t healthy, but we don’t always realize the extent. So I say, give the kids their toys. Just let the parents know exactly what they’re getting into by posting nutrition statements on the packaging. From there, it’s simply an informed choice.

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