Unhappy Meals in Santa Clara County
Some muni buses in Palo Alto now display a giant red placard with two images: an outstretched hand and a vat of Super Size french fries. The ad copy reads "Gotta Have 'Em." It evokes the old Madison Avenue saw: is McDonald's reflecting the addictive nature of its food-like substances or are they creating the addiction?
No matter. The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors thinks it is the toys that are addictive, and its the toys that get kids to restaurants like McDonald's, and that this is the cause of diabetes, heart disease, and childhood obesity. As a nutritionist, I can say that is a long list of assumptions.
In a vote that was no doubt the result of a grand compromise among the supervisors in Santa Clara County, toys and prizes will soon be banned from children's meals containing more than 485 calories. It gets a little weirder too. It will only apply to restaurants that are in unincorporated Santa Clara County.
Can we get an iPhone app for that? Since none of us are quite sure which parts of Santa Clara County are incorporated or unincorporated, an iPhone app would map out where parents could buy a kids meal with more than 485 calories and a toy or prize. The app would help drive business to the incorporated parts, and therefore result in more tax revenue to the county. Is that how it works?
Let me get the calorie part of this ordinance straight: It's OK to reward kids for choosing a hamburger and fries, which has fewer than 485 calories, but it's not OK to reward them for choosing the cheeseburger since its not within the calorie limit. So the difference between healthy and unhealthy - or prize-worthy and not prize-worthy - comes down to one slice of cheese.
Let's look at the other part of the new ordinance, which focuses on macronutrients. "In addition to the calorie count, the ordinance specifically limits children's meals to 600 mg of salt, 35 percent fat, 10 percent saturated fat, 0.5 grams of trans fat and 10 percent of calories from added sweeteners."Continued on the next page