Could Happy Meal ban derail McDonald’s?

It's big government vs. little plastic toys.

By Jamie Dlugosch Apr 28, 2010 11:42AM

McDonald's sign. Credit:  (© Darren McCollester/Getty Images)In an effort to battle child obesity, the Board of Supervisors in California's Santa Clara County voted to ban promotional toys used by McDonald's (MCD) to sell its iconic Happy Meals to young children.


Now I can see, say, the government going after bankers who nearly wrecked the financial system and regulators who surfed porn instead of watching said bankers.

But do we really need a crackdown on little plastic tchotchkes that come with burgers made by a very successful business that employs hundreds of thousands? Sure, too many Happy Meals aren't good for you. But unlike fancy financial products, what’s in them isn't a secret.


There are bigger problems to worry about, and long term this could hurt a company our economy needs.


I have two young girls of my own whom my wife and I raise as best we can on a healthy lifestyle. We exercise regularly as a family and we watch what we eat. My wife shops at Whole Foods Markets (WFMI) and buys organic whenever possible.


But we do take them to McDonald’s for a Happy Meal from time to time, and the little toys in the box have little to do with our decision to do so.


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In reality, McDonald’s is doing a bang-up job in putting healthier options on its menu. With a Happy Meal we have the choice of a burger or chicken McNuggets. We can also choose apple slices instead of fries. You can wash it down with milk or water, or skip the soda.


The portions are appropriate for young children, and aside from the fries, we view the Happy Meal as quite reasonable for the diets of our daughters.


And let's be real; hurried parents are not going to give up on McD's, so taking away the toy is just plain mean. My girls would be crushed if they didn’t get the toy that comes with that occasional trip to McDonald’s.

So Santa Clara County, get a grip. I have to admire one supervisor, Donald Gage, who reportedly noted that he was obese as a child and as an adult and added, "When I was growing up in Gilroy 65 years ago, there were no fast-food restaurants."


If this movement spread across the country, there could be a real impact on McDonald’s that would be quite unfair. And probably wouldn't make anyone healthier.


I say leave the Happy Meal alone. McDonald’s does not deserve this harassment.


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