Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Is There A Need To Ban Free Toys With Kid Meals?

Fighting obesity epidemic, especially children obesity, has been one of a top priority tasks for many countries. This is because obese or overweight children can develop many medical disorders including diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and stroke later on when they grow up. The potential medical expenses to be spent on these people for treatments would be huge.

For years, “Happy Meals” from McDonald as well as meals bundled with free toys and goodies from other fast food restaurants have been the favorite meal options for children. There is no question that such marketing approach does help the fast food companies build demand for their products.

Health experts have repeatedly pointed their fingers to the unhealthy fast foods as the culprits that are partly responsible for causing the childhood obesity epidemic. Some even blame the toys and freebies that come with the meals as a powerful lure for children, encouraging them to consume unhealthy food.

The social pressure has forced most fast food restaurants to introduce healthier meal options for children. However, most people are still not happy and feel that more actions should be taken to fight childhood obesity.

In United States, California was the first to ban on soda in public schools. On April 27, 2010, a bill was approved by Santa Clara County's Board of Supervisors to set basic nutritional standards for children’s meals. Only restaurants providing meals that comply with the national nutritional criteria for children can give away free toys with meals.

Restaurants that offer foods with excessive calories, more than 120 calories for a beverage, 200 calories for a single food item or 485 calories for a meal, would not be allowed to use toys as rewards for the children who purchase the foods. Meanwhile, there will also be limits on sodium, excess fat and excess sugar.

In Santa Clara County, one in four youths are either overweight or obese. A doctor revealed that parents coming into his clinic admitted that they often buy Happy Meals and other fast food for their children because of the free toys included. He further added that the obese children entering his clinic include a 5-year-old with Type-2 diabetes. It is hoped that the new bill would help parents decide what meal option they want for their children.

There is no surprise that people in favor of the new bill were public health administrators, parents and doctors, and those who opposed were fast-food franchisees, other parents, and fans of fast-food toys.

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