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Brooks Wilson's Economics Blog: Happy Meal Toys Under Assault by the Fat Police

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Happy Meal Toys Under Assault by the Fat Police

Freedom is again under assault!  Ken Yeager, the president of the Santa Clara County Board of Superviosrs (CA), proposed a ban on toys in restaurant meals that contain high amounts of some fats, sugars or salt.  The measure passed 3 to 2 last night, a night that will live in fast food infamy.  Read Sharon Bernstein's excellent article ("Happy Meal toys could be banned in Santa Clara County") that was published in the Los Angeles Times for more details. Mr. Yeager describes the logic of banning parents from buying products that their children like.
"People ask why I want to take toys out of the hands of children," said Yeager, who is president of the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors. "But we now know that 70% of the kids that are overweight or obese will be overweight or obese as adults. Why would we want to burden anybody with a lifetime of chronic illness?"

"We're responsible for paying for healthcare in the whole county," Yeager said. "We pay close to $2 billion annually on healthcare, and the costs have done nothing but rise." A big part of the increase, he said, is costs related to obesity.
Mr. Yeager, children's weight, other than your own, is none of your business.  Parents know the needs of their children and love them more than you do.  The logic of claiming a right to regulate diet because taxpayers are forced into paying healthcare costs of others is backwards.  The federal government limits taxpayers' freedom by forcing them to pay for the healthcare of others and you top it off by limiting the freedom that people have to buy products from fast food restaurants?  Two wrongs don't make a right.  A better response would be to oppose healthcare reform because it restricts freedom.Taxpayers also fund education.  Does that mean that you should limit the sale of televisions, computers, game systems, software and other products that would conflict with society's goal to educate its citizens?  By the way, limiting access to these products would also give children more time to exercise to fight obesity. 

Your arguments are unconvincing on lesser grounds as well.  According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, only 11% of children ages 2 to 5 were overweight (all data is from 2005 to 2006).  In your effort to take the freedom of parents with overweight children, you are taking the freedom of the majority of parents, approximately 79%, who do not have overweight children.  Sixty seven percent of American adults are overweight.  If 70% of the 11% of children who are overweight will be overweight as adults, then 66% of the 89% of children who are not overweight will also be overweight as adults.  The difference is thin and the problem is with adults, not children. 

Finally, and least of all, you may wish to observe the eating habits of children whose parents buy these meals.  They often open the box, pull out the toy, eat a fry or two and run to the play equipment for lots of good exercise.  They come back with the toy and play with it.  The parents end up eating most of the meal.  That is why the parents are fat and not the children.


  1. Slade Rodriguez
    Yes, it is true that more kids today are becoming obese. But what do happy meal toys have to do with kids becoming obese. I have a little nephew who is like 5 every time we go to McDonald's he get the happy meal. Truth to be told he will spend 10 to 20 minutes going up and down the slides. So all together I eat more of his meal than what he does. Also It's what the kids eat at home that makes them obese. So if you want to spend less on health care reform America teach your kids to eat healthier. A good start is to watch Jaime Oliver Food Revolution, and slowly start to eat healthier and be more active.

  2. Rebecca Kolosci28/4/10 10:10 PM

    I totally understand this desire to rid the toys out of high fat, and high sugar meals. I believe also that kids only want the meals for the toys and they should offer the toys with healthier meals. I am the mother of three children ages 8, 5, and 2. The two older children will only get a happy meal for their order if they have toys that they like. I have stopped ordering happy meals and order a healthier alternative for them then add the toy if they feel like they have to have it. I totally agree with taking the toys out of these meals. I know people think this is ridiculous but maybe more kids would eat a meal of chicken breast and broccoli if the meal had a cool toy that came with it. It makes perfect sense to me. Not all individuals have access to the income to afford healthy foods and stop at the fast food restaurant frequently. Also, it is statistically proven that obese parents generally go on to have obese children. The healthy food isn't being eaten by the parents then the kids will not eat it. Overall I think it is a good idea. You can't please everyone but I say way to go. Now if they can just post the calorie and sodium counts on the menu we would be on the step in the right direction.

  3. Kellie Duncan28/4/10 10:44 PM

    Even if you get rid of the toys in a happy meal, it's still a bunch of fatty food in a box. The government is trying to end obesity but getting rid of a toy doesn't exactly do that. If the kid wants a burger and fries, they will still get a burger and fries. Happy meals are starting to get healthier this last year or so by offering milk and fruits. Kids could atleast play with the toy and maybe burn a few calories that way. I guess happy meals aren't so happy anymore.

  4. Andrea Garza28/4/10 11:32 PM

    I agree with the whole "let's fight obesity" attitude, but I am with the rest of them, taking a toy out of a meal is not going to solve anything. If they want to make kids healthier instead of taking a toy away make the food healthier. It's that simple. Plus I agree with Kellie, if a kid wants a burger and some fries they're going to get a burger and some fries with or without a toy.

  5. Lindsay Weaver29/4/10 12:03 AM

    As much as I don't agree with this, I can see where he is coming from! It's kind of like putting a tax on cigarettes. Making it less desirable to do/ eat something unhealthy. With that said though, most fast food restaurants now have much healthier options for kids' menus so I don't see how taking a toy away would do anything. It's pointless for the government to try and regulate things like this when the market is pretty much taking care of it itself!

  6. Allyssa Welch29/4/10 9:55 AM

    I don't see how taking away a toy will cause kids to eat right. Last time I checked adult meals don't come with toys and they seen to eat whatever they want, with or with out a surprise in a box. Instead of taking away the toy lets start adding better choices to the menu to cut down the fat going into our bodies.

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  9. I don't see what the kids toys have anything to do with the food. The food is still processed the same way and will still be sold just as much with or without the toys. The idea of getting rid of the toys, I dont see will change anything. Keeping the toys and making the food a healthier would be a different story. Some kids that have parents that spend time with them will sit at Mcdonalds or anywhere else that has an inside or outside play area will play on that ground for at like 10 minutes max. The idea of getting rid of the toys are not reasonable.

  10. Danielle Caserta5/5/10 6:02 PM

    Thats so messed up! Kids should have their toys, its not like the toys are making them fat... the food is. Even if the food or toys are making them fat, your right, that is none of the government's business, because that is the parents responsibility, It may lure kids into buying the greasy junk food, but if thats what they want let them eat!

  11. Kevin Hutchison5/5/10 7:51 PM

    This idea is absolutely preposterous!! Even with the absence of the toy, children will still much rather eat a cheeseburger than something healthier such as salad, maize, or green bean casserole. This proposed ban would not improve our childrens health whatsoever.

  12. Jorey Burkett5/5/10 7:53 PM

    Kids wanting the toys doesnt coinside with the same kids desiring a certain fatty food. A child just wants a toy. If you put the same toy in a salad, then you would sell more salads. A childs parents are obviously to dumb to regulate what their child eats and are instead just giving in the their childs wanting of a particular toy, the fatty food ends up a byproduct because the toys is paired with it. When I was a young lad I forced my mother to buy me a happy meal because I wanted the mewtwo pokemon card. Naturally the meal came with a nasty, unhealthy hamburger. This easily understandable example explains my point exactly. Bottom line.....take the toys away, and the choice of food is no longer biased toward unhealthy choices. peace.

  13. I feel as if this is a stupid argument. McDonalds isnt to blame for the obeseity in America (its not really helping either by the way). The parents in America are the people to blame. What the kids are eating at home on a regular basis is worse then Happy Meals. Taking the toys away wont solve anything. And come on taking away toys in the happy meal is Anti American!

  14. Mary Beth Green4/11/10 4:34 PM

    I don't think that taking away a toy will help anything. There is still the same amount of food and fat then there was before and without the toy the child is more focused on eating the food rather than playing with the toy which results in gaining more weight. If they want to change the fact that America is becoming more obese then start with the food that we eat and what causes us to become fat in the first place rather than focus on toys. Produce food that is better for us and less in calories and sell that in fast food places rather than the fatty and bad for you food that is one of the causes of obesity in today's world.