In early November, San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors passed a landmark bill requiring McDonald’s Happy Meals and other fast-food meals aimed at children to meet new nutritional standards – or lose the toy.
Scheduled to take effect in December 2011, the new rules will allow restaurants to include a toy with a meal only if the food and drink combined contain fewer than 600 calories, and if less than 30 percent of the calories come from fat. The ordinance will also require restaurants to provide fruits and vegetables within every meal containing a toy. For perspective, consider that the classic Happy Meal (burger and fries, unadulterated with healthy choices like apple slices) currently weighs in at 650 calories and 23 grams of fat.
"We're part of a movement that is moving forward an agenda of food justice," Supervisor Eric Mar, who sponsored the measure, told the Los Angeles Times. "From San Francisco to New York City, the epidemic of childhood obesity in this country is making our kids sick, particularly kids from low income neighborhoods, at an alarming rate. It's a survival issue and a day-to-day issue."
However, San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom disagreed and vetoed the bill, aligning himself with the segment of the population who believe this brand of “food justice” is less about battling childhood obesity than it is removing choice from parents and putting it squarely in the hands of an Orwellian nanny state.
"Parents, not politicians, should decide what their children eat, especially when it comes to spending their own money,” Newsom said. “Despite its good intentions, I cannot support this unwise and unprecedented governmental intrusion into parental responsibilities and private choices." And yet, because the measure was passed by eight votes — one more than needed to override a veto — his opposition won't matter unless one of the supervisors changes his or her mind at a scheduled override meeting.
So far, an unofficial tally of online editorializing is split down the middle between those who object to the government having a say in whether kids get a toy or not and those who think it’s about time someone stepped in to wage the war on obesity. For every opponent of over-regulation there’s a Dr. Phil, who recently told Anderson Cooper in an interview on CNN, “To conquer childhood obesity, we need an approach that is backed by parents, schools, government and business. Yet, when the government makes a move that would make it easier for parents to bypass the fast-food lane, critics cry that it’s the parents’ job to choose what their kids eat.”
What do you think? Should the government require that your kid get a serving of broccoli before he picks up his Megamind toy, or should that be up to you?