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 abc7news.com. 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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Alternative solution...

Ryan L.
May 12, 2010
"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. " Alternatively, a toy (or other kid-directed marketing) could be used to encourage healthy choices. Perhaps outright banning of toys wouldn't be the best way to go about it. Only allowing toys to be included with healthy options would be one example of an alternative and perhaps mutually beneficial solution.

Reply

Stephanie
May 12, 2010
Really good point, Ryan. Thanks for your perspective!

It's Not the Toys' Fault

Cherie M.
May 12, 2010
The Parent or Adult is responsible for what the child consumes regardless of laws, taxes, nutrition labels or toys. The Food and Beverage Industry is not responsible for the obesity in the children of America. We could change every label, put out all the nutritional information and it still won't change peoples habits, poor choices, or force them to make healthy ones. Healthy Choices are available everyday. People need to make healthy ones. Health Education, a Nutrition Class and Physical Activity would make a much bigger difference. I believe these are easily obtained through a doctor or agency (and some are free!). Parents are The Only Ones responsible for what their child or children consume. Wake UP America! It's not the Happy Meal.... or the Toy.... Parenting = Making Responsible Decisions for your Children, Including Consumption and Exercise! Bottom Line: The Food and Beverage Industry and Packaging are not responsible for individuals' consumptions, obesity or poor habits. People Are...

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