San Francisco To Ban McDonalds Happy Meal Toys?

October 7, 2010

- See all 31 of my articles

Happy Meals or Unhappy Meals?

Put on your seatbelt.  Put down that phone while you’re driving.  No smoking in establishments that serve food.  Speed limit is 35.  No kid’s meals with toys.  What?

We have become a nation filled with laws, statutes and ordinances.  I remember when the seat belt law took effect; I thought my Dad’s head was going to explode.  When cities and states began passing anti-smoking laws for restaurants, all the bars said that they were going to go under.  I don’t particularly like most of the speed limits because they get in my way and make me late.  Under the latest moves McDonalds won’t be able to include toys in Happy Meals—Seriously?  Is this where we’re going?

I struggle with this latest move by San Francisco and the private group CSPI.  They are both fighting McDonald’s and trying to regulate a parent’s job.  They’re not targeting the food at McDonald’s, but rather a toy.  The kids don’t eat the toys; they eat the fries and whatever else they order.  I’m a father of two kids (5 & 7) and when they ask to go to McDonalds, it has nothing to do with the toys.  I asked my kids why they like to go to McDonalds and Kiley said the hamburger and fries while Kayla said the chicken nuggets.  McDonalds has offered healthier choices like apple dippers, salad, juice, milk, etc for a few years.  The patrons are given a choice—let them decide.

None of this changes the fact that as a parent, it’s my job to regulate what my kids eat just like it’s my job to regulate what I eat.  I certainly don’t want anyone in the government making my meal decisions for my family.  I would hope that I have the basic intelligence to keep things in balance.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has threatened to sue McDonalds over toys being used to market Happy Meals.  They have indicated that 93% of Happy Meals are served with French Fries.  To that statistic I say no kidding!  I love french fries and I love McDonald’s french fries.  If this is the issue, why not sue McDonald’s to not serve Happy Meals with french fries?  Better yet, why not butt out of our business!  They could simply issue a statement that they don’t recommend Happy Meals, french fries or McDonalds. 

Interestingly enough, the CSPI indicates on their site that they are an advocacy group to research and provide information to consumers.  I’m curious when and why they decided to add sue companies to that list.

So the biggest question in all of this—-why do liberals feel that they need to legislate how I live?  I have a kegerator at home, and yes I enjoy quality craft beer.  Will I be targeted next?  No more beer sales?  No more steak?  No more unprotected sex with my wife?  Where does this stop?

I realize that the groups targeting McDonald’s Happy Meals are probably founded on good intentions.  Just like previous laws were: wearing a seat belt or helmet provides obvious protection, no smoking laws certainly have proven health benefits to everyone, both the smoker and those around them and outlawing texting was supposed to reduce crashes (but it has since been proven ineffective).

However, I for one am just sick and tired of people trying to regulate our lives.  We are a nation built on freedoms.  I believe that freedom includes eating a hamburger with fries and getting a happy little Barbie toy with it if that is what me or my kids choose.  I also believe that as a parent, I have a responsibility to take care of my children and that includes making healthy decisions for them.  I don’t want someone dictating how my wife and I should parent or what we should feed our kids.  This is a not a socialist government and it has no business meddling in how I raise my kids.

I’m hopeful that as we move forward, people will see the insanity of this latest move.  (Of course) San Francisco is trying to be the first to pass a law outlawing Happy Meal toys.  It shouldn’t be a surprise since they have already outlawed tobacco sales in some retail outlets and have even banned the sale of sweetened beverages from vending machines on city property.

The citizens of San Francisco have the equivalent of George Orwell’s Big Brother (1984) watching out for them and making decisions for them.  Obviously, Mayor Gavin Newsom doesn’t believe that they can make decisions on their own. 

In the immortal words of 2Pac in his work, Only God Can Judge Me, “Let me live baby. Let me live!” 

Are there any other conservative hip hop/rap fanatics or is it just me?


21 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. kosmo
    Oct 07, 2010 @ 08:44:25

    Yeah, I’m with you on this. Parents should be responsible for determining an appropriate diet for their kids. Mickey Ds already provides dietary information – their responsibility should end there. (I do think the dietary info is a good idea, because figuring out what is best for you can be counter-intuitive at times).

    Is it unhealthy to eat every meal at McDonalds? Well, yeah. But I don’t think it’s a terrible thing to have them as one component in a diet.

    Newsom has said he’ll veto this bill – hopefully they can’t override him.

    I’m one of the rare folks who really doesn’t think MD fries are all that special. Not horrible or anything, but I prefer the fries at pretty much any other fast food joint.


  2. Evan @40Tech
    Oct 07, 2010 @ 12:07:57

    That’s why our current system drives me nuts. Both sides pull stunts like this. More commonly, you have one party known for wanting to reach into your pocketbook, while the other is known for wanting to legislate morality and reach into your bedroom. After the Republican party got co-opted by the religious right and corporate interests, I thought maybe I should switch to being a Libertarian, but the latest economic meltdown has me not so sure that a world devoid of government regulation is a good thing. But yea, the McDonald’s situation is craziness.


  3. Squeaky
    Oct 07, 2010 @ 15:06:05

    You both have hit it on the head.
    @Evan, I’m growing more Libertarian everyday. There is a definite balance to total Libertarianism and what we probably need. I’m all for a good balance, which seems to be the key.

    Too much of the Dems gives us painful taxes and a free ride to far too many people that sometimes need a push to get back in the game. Too much conservativism gives us opportunity for corporate corruption. Too much libertarianism gives us anarchy. I would never choose a democratic approach but there are probably an item or two I could live with. Give us a good solid mix and we may have a chance.

    @Kos go figure you’d know about Newsom’s stance on something. You must read all day long to know all the little tidbits that you do. Thank you for the skinny, I hadn’t seen that. How could you not like McDonald’s french fries? Maybe you could try them again the next time you go there to get the My Little Pony dolls. LOL.



  4. kosmo
    Oct 07, 2010 @ 16:03:30

    “@Kos go figure you’d know about Newsom’s stance on something. You must read all day long to know all the little tidbits that you do.”

    I have a few personal finance blogs in my RSS reader – and this popped up in a couple of them.

    I don’t have much of a photographic memory, but I do have a tendency to remember a lot of small tidbits. Makes me pretty good at Trivial Pursuit (not as good as Martin Kelly’s wife, but still pretty good)


  5. Onij
    Oct 07, 2010 @ 17:59:29

    if Happy Meal toys weren’t effective, why else would they be?


  6. Onij
    Oct 07, 2010 @ 18:20:44

    * the bag?


  7. Onij
    Oct 07, 2010 @ 18:24:09

    “Obviously, Mayor Gavin Newsom doesn’t believe that they can make decisions on their own.”

    @squeaky: “..Obviously,” thats not the only reason..


  8. Squeaky
    Oct 07, 2010 @ 22:48:17

    @Onij- My entire point is that why aren’t they going after the food that they have issues with? French Fries, red meat, chicken pieces parts…the toy is seriously their issue? Seriously? The other point is: why do liberals think that they know what is best for everyone else? If my daughter finishes a triathlon and wants a Happy Meal for her reward (true story)…why does someone feel the need to stand in her way? That is my job as her father, not your job or anyone elses.

    If the toy is the issue, why aren’t they targeting Cracker Jacks? Breakfast cereal? Why not tackle baseball cards for including that high quality gum? What about Burger King’s version of the Happy Meal? Is someone targeting McDonalds because they are owners in BK and trying to get a competitive advantage?

    There is just no consistency and no common sense in any of this.


    • micheala
      Dec 02, 2010 @ 03:56:29

      The toy is not the issue, It is how the toy is used to make even an obviously health conscious athletic child such as your daughter think of this unhealthy “food” as a reward. No one is standing in her way if she wants to order this food, the law simply prevents manipulating your daughter through the use of these toys to buy and continue throughout her lifetime to buy a product that can harm her. Especially when she is conditioned to think of this garbage as a reward, and will continue to think of it this way throughout her lifetime. She can still order this food if she chooses, no one is telling you what she can or can’t eat. If you think children can’t be manipulated in this way, why do you think McDonalds spends billions advertising to them? I can’t believe how many parents are coming to the defense of the perv in the playground luring kids with candy. And in the case of Mcdonalds, they even provide the playground!


      • kosmo
        Dec 02, 2010 @ 08:10:31

        I don’t think anyone disagrees that McDonalds is attempting to influence kids.

        The disagreement comes with regard to whom should be the gatekeeper – the parent or the government. As a parent of two young children, I’m perfectly capable of setting household rules, including dietary constraints.

        In fact, if I don’t want my kids to have the toy, there are multiple ways to get them a meal without a toy. Even if we go to McDonalds, I am not forced to get them a Happy Meal.

        In spite of the toys, my 3 year old doesn’t have any sort of unnatural affinity for McDonalds. It’s far from her favorite restaurant. A couple of times a month, she’ll have a chicken nugget meal, but she never asks for McD in between those times – even though we pass one every single day (live a block away from it).

        What are her favorite Happy Meal style toys? Books. Among others, we have a space exploration book that came with an Arby’s meal. These books would also be banned by the SF law.


  9. kosmo
    Oct 08, 2010 @ 08:35:49

    Although McDonalds is being brought up repeatedly by almost every media outlet, the legislation would actually affect all restaurants (although, realistically, fast food joints).

    I haven’t been able to find the actual text of the law (yet), but some summaries online are saying no “incentive items” can be included in meals with:

    – More than 200 calories for a single item or 600 for a meal
    – More than 480 milligrams of sodium for a single item or 640 for a meal
    – More than 35% of calories from fat (with the exception of fat in nuts, seeds, packaged eggs, or low/reduced fat cheese)
    – More than 10% of calories froms saturated fat (similar exceptions)
    – More than 0.5 grams of trans fat

    – Meal must contain at least 1/2 cup of fruit AND 3/4 cup of vegetables
    – Beverage must not have more than 35% of calories from fat or 10% sugar-based

    Interestingly, it’s OK to have three items that are 199 calories each (597 total), but having one that is 201 and 2 that are 50 each (301 total) is not allowed. The second meals is worse for you how, exactly?


  10. Onij
    Oct 09, 2010 @ 12:41:34

    @Squeaky: “Put on your seat-belt. Put down that phone while you’re driving. No smoking in establishments that serve food. Speed limit is 35. No kid’s meals with toys.”

    My response: unless you have a problem with putting on your seat-belt, driving and not talking at the same time, people smoking around you when you eat, and a speed limit of 35 – 40 on a street packed with kids.. Where were you going with this?

    @Squeaky: “If my daughter finishes a triathlon and wants a Happy Meal for her reward (true story)…why does someone feel the need to stand in her way? That is my job as her father, not your job or anyone elses.”

    My response: wait! When you say she (your daughter) wants a Happy Meal for her “reward,” by reward do you mean the actual meal being the reward or the toy that comes with the meal? Is it the meal or the toy she’s more after? What separates the happy meal from all other meals offered at McD’s besides the design of the bag? It’s the price of the meal and the toy included. Believe it or not kids are more attracted to the package of the meal then the actual meal themselves. Take away the toy; take away the Happy in Happy Meal.

    @squeaky: “If the toy is the issue, why aren’t they targeting Cracker Jacks? Breakfast cereal? Why not tackle baseball cards for including that high quality gum? What about Burger King’s version of the Happy Meal? Is someone targeting McDonalds because they are owners in BK and trying to get a competitive advantage?”

    My response: two points: McDonalds serves more people then Cracker jacks and the high quality gum you can find in some baseball card packages combined! Even if you threw Burger King in the mix and they still can’t compete with McD’s… Second, your assuming BK would somehow, not be affected by this. if the banning of toys from Happy Meals prove to be effective, do you really think that a competitor of McD’s wouldn’t share the same outcome? I’m sure they thought about it.

    Is it not counterintuitive to eat a Happy Meal after completing a triathlon? Who eats Cracker Jacks anymore? lol

    That’s is all..


  11. Squeaky
    Oct 09, 2010 @ 13:40:24

    @Onji – If an 8 year old girl completes a triathlon and wants a Happy Meal as a reward, that is not counterintuitive. It’s an 8 year old girl that does things in balance and does need to eat McDonald’s all the time. In our family, we eat healthy food most of the time and when we want a reward (McDonald’s, Krispy Kreme, etc) we have a reward. We work very hard to stay fit and there is nothing wrong with indulging if you’re in balance.

    My problem with this whole situation is everyone feeling like they need to regulate our lives. We’re perfectly capable of making our own decisions and taking care of ourselves. You obviously don’t have a problem with that, so good for you—you can have it.


  12. kosmo
    Oct 10, 2010 @ 13:09:27

    “Who eats Cracker Jacks anymore?”

    Me – all the time 🙂


  13. Onij
    Oct 12, 2010 @ 20:32:57

    am i being censored?


  14. kosmo
    Oct 12, 2010 @ 20:54:52

    “am i being censored?”

    Hmm. No, you’re not being censored. It’s possible that some of your comments got caught up in my spam filter and lost when I trashed the spam, though. I try to make sure there’s not legit stuff in the spam, but sometimes my eye glaze over a bit when paging through it. It’s pretty rare for this to happen, but it does happen every once in a while.

    If your comments aren’t appearing, go ahead and email them to me directly at and I can post them, attributed to you.

    It takes quite a lot to get censored here. Simply having a spirited disagreement isn’t enough to warrant censorship.


  15. Onij
    Oct 12, 2010 @ 21:40:42

    Explanation (to my question above): I posted three times prior to this and two out of the three post are not visible.

    (the succinct version)

    @Squeaky- to the first part response… “I agree.”

    As for the offer (second part) “Uh.. Thanks?”

    @Kosmo- I cant live with the prizes that come in the package now or days, if I come across another picture fold of Young/Old Susan or ants walking on a pencil cut outs, I might explode. Cracker jacks are just not the same as I remembered it. I applaud you man.


  16. kosmo
    Oct 12, 2010 @ 21:52:08

    One thing that might help avoid getting your comments lost in the spam is setting up a gravatar at The spam queue shows the Gravatar next to the message, and faces do jump out at me when I’m scanning the spam.

    Yeah, the Cracker Jack prizes are pretty lame these days. A big reason why I eat it is because of the long association with baseball. Eating Cracker Jack in January makes me think of baseball – which always puts me in a good mood.

    As for Squeaky’s comment about the bubble game in baseball cards:
    1) No mainstream card line has featured gum since … Topps in 1991? The cutover was sometime in the early 90s, when Topps started inserting “gold” cards and such. No competing brand had gum because of court cases involving Topps and Fleer. After a near 20 year hiatus, Fleer (makers of Dubble Bubble gum) re-entreed the market in 1981, sans gum.

    2) The gum in the baseball card packages was awful. Even worse was decade old gum, though 🙂 I bought a vintage pack of cards once and tried the gum, just for the heck of it. Bad idea.

    3) Interestingly, with baseball cards, the tail is now wagging the dog. When originally introduced, the cards were a premium thrown in to sell a product (tobacco at first, then later gum). Later, this flopped and the cards became the main product. Baseball cards (and other photo cards) were originally inserted into tobacco packages mainly because the stiff cardboard would keep the tobacco packages from getting crushed – serving an actual functional purpose.


  17. Squeaky
    Oct 12, 2010 @ 22:35:23

    LOL!!!! Tobacco in baseball cards? What at riot.

    You two have a great evening and enjoy the 20 year old baseball card gum.


  18. Cathy
    Nov 04, 2010 @ 20:43:06

    Stand up against the tyranny America……………McDonalds should start offering the toys in exchange for a penny donation that would go to a local charity………………


    • kosmo
      Nov 04, 2010 @ 23:22:14

      I think there’s definitely the possibility of some creative workarounds.


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