A New York politician wants to ban Happy Meal-style fast food meals—but the measure wouldn't make us healthy
New York City Councilman Leroy G. Comrie Jr. of Queens has attacked a piece of Americana by proposing to ban "Happy Meal" toys in fast food restaurants. And while legislators and public health advocates are correct in looking for ways to reverse skyrocketing childhood obesity rates, toys and kids' foods have been synonymous for almost a century, ever since Cracker Jacks began adding surprises to each package in 1912.
My reservations about regulating toys have less to do with its perceived merits and more with the spotty record of food legislation. Bluntly, two decades of regulations have not delivered on the promise of reversing childhood obesity.
Let's look at the legislative scorecard so far. Back in the early 1990s, the government developed the Food Pyramid Guidelines and mandated nutrition label facts on all packaged food products. Even though this provided detailed nutritional information and suggestions on how to design a healthy diet, obesity rates have jumped over 50 percent since then.
food regulations are faring just as poorly. Contrary to a 2009 study that indicated that the more affluent, educated Starbucks customer purchased fewer food calories when confronted with calories posted on the menus, the latest evidence suggests that these highly touted "calorie counts" are not cajoling mainstream consumers to purchase