Julie Gunlock

Parents have many responsibilities. Getting the kids up and ready for school, making sure they do their homework and practice proper manners. Parents manage carpools, play-dates and sleepovers; they sooth scraped knees, bruised heads and injured feelings. But perhaps the most basic thing a parent does is feed their children. Feeding a child means more than just spooning mashed carrots into a baby’s mouth or preparing a simple peanut butter and jelly sandwich for a toddler. It requires a firm constitution when children demand a meal mom and dad might not consider healthy.

Most parents deal with these demands by simply saying “no” to the pestering child, but apparently this is a feat too difficult for parents -- at least according to one New York City council member.

Taking a page from the San Francisco ban on toys in McDonalds’ Happy Meals, New York City Councilman Leroy Comrie just announced his plan to introduce a bill to ban fast food restaurants from using these “predatory marketing techniques” unless they meet “certain satisfactory nutritional requirements.”

Of course, Comrie is just the latest public official to jump on the anti-Happy Meal bandwagon. San Francisco passed its own ban last year despite there being no evidence that these bans result in children and parents making healthier food decisions. And there’s the rub: What seems to escape Comrie and the rest of the food nannies is that something else comes with these toys—yummy food that kids love. French fries, chicken nuggets, hamburgers--these items taste good to kids (and adults). Kids will still clamor for these appealing items, even if a toy isn’t included.

Fast food restaurants are already voluntarily altering their menus so that customers have healthier choices. McDonalds now offers apple slices, yogurt and oatmeal on their menu. At Burger King, customers can order a veggie burger as well as a variety of salads and grilled chicken sandwiches. The entire fast food industry has been experimenting with oils that don’t contain trans-fats to get ahead of trans-fat bans and many fast food restaurants post the calories contained in each item—some even directly on many of the food containers.

Julie Gunlock

Julie Gunlock is director of the Culture of Alarmism project at the Independent Women’s Forum (www.iwf.org).