EDITORIAL: Parents, not toys, to blame

Staff Writer
Washington Times-Reporter

Could Tazewell County children possibly soon be deprived of the joy a free little toy accompanying a McDonald’s Happy Meal brings?

It’s not likely, Tazewell County Board chairman, David Zimmerman, said commenting on the recent banning of free promotions with high-calorie meals, including Happy Meal toys, in Santa Clara County in California.

The ordinance bans toys and other promotional items from meals that are more than 485 calories, or have more than 600 mg. of sodium, more than 35 percent of total calories from fat or 10 percent from added sugar.

This, Santa Clara officials say, will help combat child and adult obesity.

Complaints against Ronald McDonald and his accomplices in child corruption, Hamburglar, Grimace, and others, are nothing new. But the new Santa Clara County ordinance takes the complaints to a new, official, level and begs the question of whether they are overstepping their bounds by controlling a company’s marketing strategy.

On one hand, many industries, like alcohol and tobacco, are restricted from marketing to children. Alcohol and tobacco, however, are illegal for people under a certain age; food is not.

That does not mean that food cannot be just as harmful in the long-term. Just watch “Supersize Me” to dispel any doubt.

McDonald’s and other restaurants, however, should not be held responsible for parents who make the poor decision to buy their children these high-calorie meals.

The young children do not drive themselves to the fast food restaurants and, barely being able to see over the counter, order a Happy Meal, pay, eat and leave.

McDonald’s is a business with a simple strategy: sell food. Their marketing strategy happens to include toys for their Happy Meals. Their strategy does not include taking away an adult’s power to say “No” to a child.

Will there be a few more fits thrown and a few more frazzled parents in Santa Clara? Probably.

And, of course, the children in Santa Clara, like in the rest of the U.S., will continue to want to eat McDonald’s food, just like they want to eat nothing but candy and ice cream and drink soda.

They will also continue to want to stick their fingers in electrical outlets, play with matches and experiment with “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.”

No one ever said being responsible for a child is easy, but people need to stop passing the buck when it comes to what children are eating.

Although it would be nice to have more socially responsible restaurants concerned about people’s health, profits will always trump that idea. And personal responsibility should always trump any argument to put

the blame on restaurants.

In light of recent studies comparing the effects of fat on the brain to those of cocaine, perhaps parents need some sort of educational program about the dangers of high-calorie meals for themselves and their children with a short, to-the-point catch phrase.

“Just say no!”