Thursday, April 29, 2010

It’s a sad day for Happy Meals in Santa Clara County

"Happy Meal toys and other promotions that come with high-calorie children's meals will soon be banned in parts of Santa Clara County unless the restaurants meet nutritional guidelines approved Tuesday by the [Santa Clara] county Board of Supervisors… Voting against the measure was Supervisor Donald Gage, who said parents should be responsible responsible for their children.

As someone without children, I think this is a little dumb. I don’t see parents as needing those toys to control their children. It’s just a little prize to go along with the meal. I remember as a kid, a kids’ meal somewhere was a little treat in itself. To me, this screams out as being a case of nanny government.

And I have to admit that as an adult, I’m a little insulted about it. I tend to collect the odd toy occasionally, usually ones from movie tie-ins. In fact, I intend to stop at Burger King to see if I can get the 7” tall Iron Man figure in their kids’ meal. So if I lived in Santa Clara County, I’d have to go to a BK in another county.

I see one minor and one major loser in this scenario. The minor loser would be the toy companies that make and distribute the toys to the restaurants. Off hand, I can’t even imagine how many companies that would be. BK, KFC, Taco Bell, Wendy’s, Hardee’s, McDonald’s, Chik Fil-A, how many other restaurants have toys in their kids’ meals? In only Santa Clara County (for the time being), those companies might feel a small dip in their sales.

The major loser would be all of those chain restaurants in Santa Clara County. Parents (and toy collectors) might start taking their business out of Santa Clara and go to other restaurants. Which, when you see that idea in black and white, it seems a little extreme, but, will the kids’ meals be dropped in price in Santa Clara since there won’t be any toys? Their sales might drop more than the toy companies" sales.

“Supervisor Ken Yeager, who sponsored the measure…’This ordinance breaks the link between unhealthy food and prizes.’" Ummmm, not necessarily. The “adult” meals don’t come with prizes, so that link still could exist in some people’s minds.

“As a compromise to win majority support, the five-member board agreed to put off implementing the measure for 90 days, to give the fast-food industry time to come up with a voluntary program for improving the nutritional value of children's meals.” How is that supposed to happen? You “expect” an entire industry to come up with a way to improve the nutritional value of their meals? Sometimes, the test kitchens work on new menu items for MONTHS before they are introduced to the public. I’m sure the board “created” the 90 day grace period to make it seem like they are giving the fast food industry a fighting chance. That’s kind of insulting too, I think.

I don’t believe this ordinance will actually last in Santa Clara County. I think it will be rescinded. I don’t believe the fast food corporations will allow the Board to override their business decisions like that. That’s not the Board’s decision to make.

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