Yes, I am old enough to remember when the Happy Meal first came out. The little crappy toy was so appealing, but of course, it was the same shitty McDonald’s food I grew up on.
Actually, I’m not sure how anyone can eat that stuff, especially once you have tasted whole foods; however, many American kids rely on fast food chains for their nourishment. High calorie meals, such as Happy Meals, are now under fire as childhood obesity rates are on the rise. Santa Clara County in California has banned McDonald’s Happy Meals in response.
“This ordinance prevents restaurants from preying on children’s love of toys” to sell high-calorie, unhealthful food, said Supervisor Ken Yeager, who sponsored the measure. “This ordinance breaks the link between unhealthy food and prizes.”
The toys won’t disappear immediately. Fast food restaurants have 90 days to come up with a voluntary solution for improving the nutritional value of kid’s meals. Which: don’t hold your breath.
Not only are Happy Meals chocked full of calories, they are full of food additives too. Two years ago we reported:
Those ingredients are food additives. Additives are chemical compounds that are used to enhance or preserve (enhance being a relative term) color, texture, flavor and shelf life of a manufactured food. Some additives are safe, at least as far as the FDA is concerned, in small quantities. However, there are many that just don’t belong in food despite what the FDA says.
In at least one case, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services contradicts the FDA on the safety of an additive. BHA, BUTYLATED HYDROXYANISOLE, and BHT, or BUTYLATED HYDROXYTOLUENE, are both used to prevent oils from going rancid, oils such as those used in frying. BHA is considered to be “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen.” Testing of BHT is unclear whether or not it may be a carcinogen as well, and residues of this chemical have been found in human fat stores. Despite the Department of Health and Human Services findings, the FDA continues to allow BHA to be used. You can find both of these substances in the sausage patties of a fast food breakfast sandwich.
I commend Santa Clara County for taking this step to protect children from unhealthy foods. Some may feel this is an example of government overstepping its role and imposing more regulations that limit personal freedoms, but unfortunately children are not mature enough or capable of resisting marketing ploys, like cheap toys, and many families lack food safety and health education. Our government has established a precedent of banning chemicals known to harm human health. The Happy Meal is really no different.