Making Unhealthy Meals Less Happy Meals

California board rules to ban toys given away with meals that fail health standards

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Crow enjoying McDonalds Happy Meal (flickr user Mikko/

Tuesday, the board of supervisors in Santa Clara County, California, decided to take a step further in the fight against obesity: they banned toy giveaways with kids' meals that don't meet certain nutritional standards. (Overall calorie count and salt content chief among them.)  This is the latest attempt in a series of measures taken by counties, cities and states to combat obesity, and is widely seen as specifically targeting McDonalds' Happy Meals.

On the national stage, first lady Michelle Obama is leading the fight with an ambitious campaign against childhood obesity, announced in February.

Marc Ambinder – formerly obese, himself, before undergoing bariatric surgery – joins us to talk about these latest efforts and the many unsuccessful initiatives that preceded them. We also talk to Rocky Tayeh, who produced a radio story called "My Struggle with Obesity" in 2003 for Radio Rookies, a WNYC program that introduces teenagers to radio journalism.


Marc Ambinder and Samr "Rocky" Tayeh

Produced by:

Marine Olivesi

Comments [7]

Karen from bk

Mark it's def.the toys! My little ones cry for it everyday on cue.

Apr. 30 2010 08:55 PM

REALLY?? Come on. Do people often not complain that the only thing kids want to eat are hamburgers, fries, pizza, hot dogs, and chicken nuggets? So they don't get a toy. They'll still want the food. The toy's just a perk. At least Happy Meals package that food in small these kids are going to be eating Big Macs. Why don't they just not allow anyone under 18 in fast food restaurants and get it over with, if they're so worried?

Apr. 29 2010 08:04 PM
Mark from NY

It's not the toys it's the food! Yikes to the mix up silly heads.

Apr. 29 2010 05:39 PM

Chris, I am sorry. I had thought that parents of children in Santa Clara who might be susceptible to offers of toys with their Happy Meals, would have the good sense to provide those children with sound and sensible diets. And that an occasional toy at a fast food restaurant would be one of those small pleasures in life, and not regarded as an act of criminal corporatism.

Silly me. I should have known that Californians would be unable to resist fast food for their children when toys and trinkets were offered.

If I had only known what Chris does, about the corporations which provide us with food, medicine, consumer products, energy, transportation, etc., in the American marketplace: they are our enemies, despite the fact that we all enjoy the highest standard of living in the history of humankind.

Thanks, Chris, for bringing this to the attention of all of us non-Californians. Otherwise, we might have gone on thinking that there's nothing wrong with California's budgetary death-spiral with its gigantic public employee unions.

Apr. 29 2010 02:50 PM
Chris from Santa Clara, CA

As far as Charles' comment goes, this is the reason why Californians laugh at the rest of the US. Our budget problems, which are shared by every other state government in the US and are the result of yet another Republican scandal (remember Reagan's Savings and Loan Bailout?) have nothing to do with obesity or the point of this radio show. Mc Donald's has been targeting kids with HappY Meals and Saturday morning advertising (behind the back of parents) for years. It's just another example, like the tobacco companies, of the lack of conscience and oversight that is working against the long-term interest of American systems. We constantly hear from corporate America " we can police ourselves." Behind this cynical and vacuous promise is the reality that these companies do not care at all about the long term health of American consumers. So it is left to government to do the job that big business has refused to do, that is clean up their own act. Frankly, I would be happy to see McDonald's as the target of class action lawsuits of the kind that got the tobacco companies to wake up and take responsibility for their actions.

Apr. 29 2010 01:15 PM

Naturally, stories like this is why Ameircans laugh at California.

Its all a lot less funny, when one considers how bad the California state budget deficit is, awash in red ink from the all-powerful state public sector unions and the choking stranglehold that California state government has placed on industry.

Go ahead, Californians; ban fast-food toy giveaways if you want -- just don't come to the rest of the country looking for a bailout of your profligate-spending state government.

Apr. 29 2010 10:41 AM
Rick Evans from Taxachusetts

When did US become a nation of feckless nanny-statists?

Rocky's drivel about access to cheap health food alternatives ignores the fact that home cooked meals, even burgers, are cheaper than driving the minivan MickyD's drive-up window and buying a burger, fries and 20 oz soda.

And before all the Whole-Foodies swarm out of the woodwork about how expensive healthy food is, a group of well known chefs recently took on the "food stamp challenge" and mostly succeeded.

And since when are "happy meals" aimed at 16 year olds with $3? Of course a

Apr. 29 2010 06:57 AM

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