The Happy Meal Wars
Here's the scenario: you take your hungry kid to McDonald's. She is absolutely dying for the Poodle, one of the toys included in a Happy Meal. In Santa Clara County (Silicon Valley), and likely soon in San Francisco, 50 miles to the north, any prize must be part of a government mandated “healthy” fast food choice.
Your kid throws a fit. She has to have that Poodle but turns her nose up at the food, demanding the good old Happy Meal. What’s a parent to do? I’d buy both selections, and let my daughter get the Poodle and her yummy lunch. If in San Francisco, I’d offer the healthy choice to the homeless that congregate at McDonald's—if they wanted it. Beggars can be choosers there.
Just what would make a Happy Meal a healthy meal and permit it to include a toy? San Francisco Supervisor Eric Mar set the standards, similar to those of Santa Clara County, in a bill he is presenting:
√ No single item can contain more than 200 calories or 480 milligrams of sodium.
√ An entire meal will peak at 600 calories.
√ Must contain a half-cup of fruit.
√ Must contain ¾ of a cup of vegetables (FYI: Potatoes fail to qualify in this bill. Ketchup is not a vegetable, as President Reagan once suggested.)
√ Sugar in drinks is a no-no.
The Supervisor has displayed flexibility. The above appears to be an opening bargaining position. For example, he’d accept a “multigrain component,” might lower the suggested quantity of vegetables, and even give up the vegetable requirement for breakfast meals.
Hearings are currently being held and opinion is divided. According to a San Francisco Chronicle poll, 65% of city residents are opposed.
These are kids, proponents argue, and they need special protection. For years, schools across the country have been moving toward healthier alternatives in cafeteria meals.Continued on the next page