Healthy Debate: Should Happy Meal Toys Be Banned?

by in Food News, November 1, 2010

happy meal toys

Whoever came up with the marketing for Happy Meals toys is a genius. Kids are drawn to popular characters and love the trinkets even more than the food. But this type of marketing comes a with a price: a  fat- and calorie-laden meal that leaves many child obesity advocates feeling decidedly unhappy. San Francisco is proposing a ban on toys paired with unhealthy kids’ meals — should it go nationwide? Here’s our take.

The San Fran Proposal

Last week, proposed legislation that would ban toys from kids meals unless they met specific dietary requirements made its way to becoming a reality. A subcommittee recommended that San Fran’s whole board of supervisors vote on the law.  Under the proposed law, any meal with a toy would have to limit calories and add a portion of fruits and vegetables. It would apply to all restaurants, though the proposal was written with one specific fast food joint in mind.

Update: On November 2, the San Francisco board of supervisors passed the “Happy Meal Ban” with an 8-3 vote.

Consumer Watchdog Threaten Lawsuit
CSPI (The Center for Science in the Public Interest) threatened to sue the Golden Arches if they didn’t stop using toys to market their junk food to kids. CSPI gave them 30 days — that was over 3 months ago. The lawyer for the CSPI claims the lawsuit will be filed in the next week or so.

Will It Help?
So, would banning these toys make an positive impact on the road towards healthier kids? I’ve heard kids beg to go to places like McDonald’s because they want the toy, but some argue that it’s up to the parents to decide where the children should eat and not visa versa.

Bottom Line: Using toys to lure kids is a tactic that McDonald’s and other such fast food joints have perfected. Some believe that offering healthier fare could help alleviate the incidence of childhood obesity, while others blame parents for taking their kids to these joints.

TELL US: Do you think Happy Meal toys should be banned?

Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian and consultant who specializes in food safety and culinary nutrition. See Toby’s full bio »

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Comments (56)

  1. M.A.Klein says:

    Why are “we” letting BIG BROTHER tell “us” the American Parents what and what not to do? Are we as Parents not able to make discussions for the well being of our childern any longer? Do we need to have someone else take on the responsible. I take on the responisablity for the choices for my childern, grandchildern, myself and family, not the Goverment!

  2. Candice says:

    Point blank, plain, and simple…
    it is the PARENTS responsibility.
    If the junk doesn't come from fast food it is going to come from some where else.

  3. leo fell says:

    HELL!!! NOOOOO!!! That is the parents job. Tell the fat woman in D.C. to tend to her own fat back side and stay out of our business.

  4. Bev says:

    This is another stupid idea put out there by the moral police. Leave parents alone – kids like Happy Meals and they like junk food – better to have some food in their stomachs than "healthy" food that ends up in the trash can. Limit the number of times that you go to fast food places or don't go at all – use it as a treat not a way of life. You take care of how your children eat at home but leave the general public alone. Our country is becoming too regulated.

  5. tina says:

    Tired of being told what to do!!! Where's the freedom to choose! 8 people? thats all it takes to decide what the people of the U.S.A. to ban! Bullshit I say!

  6. ihave4 says:

    This displays a ridiculous over-use of governmental power, a scandalous misuse of taxpayer money, and the obviously arrogant opinion that some of "the people" know what's best for "those poor wretches who don't know how to make good choices like us". Liberal rhetoric at it's finest. BTW, i seldom purchase happy meals for my kids because they are a relatively poor nutritional and economic choice, and i am opposed to the overuse of plastic Chinese things, (no offence to the Chinese, who are only making money we willing give them.) Although, when the golden arches offer HotWheels, i'm there. Their apple dippers and ok, too; but i loathe the assumption that kids won't eat apples w/out adding sugary caramel. Anyway, McDonald's has the right to market and sell, and most of us have to right and the cash to make food choices. A ban such as this does nothing to impart nutritional education or the decision -making skills one must continually be honing to make informed choices. Let parents feed and educate their kids.

  7. Rosina says:

    It is not up to the government to dictate how a business operates. The increase in childhood obesity starts in the home. It is up to parents to determine what is best for their kids. I think all of us are responsible and of reasonable mind and understand that a steady diet of fast food is unhealthy. If parents stopped buying these types of products and demanded better food in these child meals, then the food chains would have to change in order to stay in business. We do not need more government take-overs.

  8. tish says:

    I too think that this is really stupid,,,,I agree that it is ultimately the parents responsibility to determine their children's eating habits, be it good or bad… what's next, will they ban steak because it's a red meat or mandate that we all become vegatarian's,,,not the there's anything wrong with a person chosing to be a vegatarian,,,but the key phrase, is CHOICE…. it is my choice what a choose to eat or not to eat and the same for my children. PLEASE!!!

  9. marialouisa says:

    i think we are responsible for our childrens health. mcds is a money making machine,it was a brilliant idea for fast food restaurants, now we are trying to blem them for our health.if we dont care about our own health. you thing there gonna care about ours. no way there just making money and if they banned the happy meals there will come out with something else to sale our kids.they shouldnot banned the happymeal.its better to make happy meals healthier for our children.god bless everyone.

  10. LMS says:

    just plain NO. Why take away the few fun things in life even if it is only 5cent toy. Some of my best fun things in life growing up were those little freebies. What about Cracker Jacks? That too?
    What is wrong with these people who think to do these things – I am sure they had no idea what fun was when growing up. If someone does not like this, just don't participate. It is called FREEDOM of choice!

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