California, land where weirdness is born, has apparently been puttering away, promoting healthy eating, in the background for some time now, but it's time for us to wake up and begin to take notice.
They are proposing a bill which would force fast food restaurants to choose between a toy or unhealthy food in their kid's meals. The specific target here is McDonalds, but all fast food purveyors will be held accountable. The bill postulates that they must adhere to a calorie limit and include fruits and vegetables if they wish to include a toy, call it like it is, incentive in the package. Personally, I can't see the appeal of ten cents of plastic with flexible elbows, but I don't think it's much of a stretch to say kids are interested.
As Dear Reader may or may not be aware, I am the daughter of a businessman; although he has shifted his focus to politics in recent years (which fantastic success, Go Dad!) the mentality never really leaves. One of the main traits displayed by businessmen, or at least entrepreneurs, is that they are not real keen on legislation that tells them what they may and may not do with their business, especially when it comes to their business model, the heart of many companies. McDonalds is, understandably, not keen on the restriction because, "It's different from what we're doing today and different from what we've done for 25 years, successfully," (Karen Wells, vice president for nutrition and menu strategy). They claim it threatens their business model.
Their objection, however, raises the question: what the hell does their business model consists of that makes this bill so devastating? McDonalds has adapted to changes before, and seen nothing but growth since their inception in 1955; this new plan should be easy to accommodate, if they were focusing on their food. Let us be honest, McDonalds does not taste very good. What it does, however, is always taste the same, and when people get hungry, their bodies crave the easiest and most familiar form of calorie intake (bodies are kind of stupid like that), so we go to a place where food is provided, with all the necessary flavours to satisfy that aspect of "hunger", in less than five minutes, without any additional calorie expenditure, thus maximizing loss for gain. That's the niche they fill in our lives. As adults, we are expected to know how many times we can sacrifice our health for this kind of convenience, but we're bringing our kids into it too, who can tolerate much less sacrifice, as a result of their growing bodies that require non-crap.
People are arguing for the "government out of the kitchens of the nation" because they don't want to be told what to eat, but it is increasingly obvious that we need to be told what to eat, because in the absence of the government doing it, McDonalds is doing it. People notoriously underestimate the calorie content in their fast-food, and assuming that the balance of food groups is accurate (think of a usual McMeal; the only protein is the patty, and the only vegetables are the lettuce and tomatoes.) I won't even bring up the sodium content. People grow accustomed, at a young age, to the government safeguarding us, especially in our western nations, and that is a habit that is hard to break.
Ultimately, this must take the place of better education and societal reinforcement; i.e. until the day that everyone can understand proper eating, and take responsibility for their intake. All in all, this is a step in the right direction, whether it feels like it or not.