Obese with Power: No More Toys with Happy Meals

From (MecuryNews.com) Santa Clara County Supervisor Ken Yeager wants to stop restaurants from offering toys with food.

If Santa Clara County Supervisor Ken Yeager gets his way, there may be no more dolls, race cars or toys of any sort to entice kids like Jena — and their parents — to feast on fried, fatty fast-food. The supervisor wants to stop — or at least limit — restaurants from offering toys that encourage children to eat fatty, sugary, high-calorie and generally unhealthful meals that can lead to childhood obesity. “They want the toy and have no idea what’s in the food,” Yeager said Monday. “You can’t expect a 3-year-old to say there are too many calories in that hamburger.”

Where I draw the line on these types of proposals is when it’s clear the regulation is aimed at modifying behavior and not at protecting consumers from harmful products. Yeager makes it sound like the legislation is aimed at protecting 3-year-olds, but 3-year-olds can’t buy happy meals on their own. Parents–nature’s own child protection–are the ones buying the meals, and this law is aimed at regulating parents’ behavior.

Happy meals have food that is safe to eat, and toys that are safe play with. The legislation is not intended to protect consumers from food poisoning or lead poisoning with the toys. Restaurants are not defrauding their customers, by selling a toy along with food. Governments role in protecting consumers is to protect from harmful and fraudulent products, and not to protect people from their own behavior.

Whenever the subject comes up as to when any government regulation is needed to protect consumers, remember to ask, “Is the product safe?” Fatty, sugary, high-calorie foods are unhealthy when eaten in excess, as basically anything you consume is unhealthy if you ingest too much. It’s strange but true: even drinking too much water can kill you and people have died because of it. If the product can be used safely, then odds are there is another agenda that has nothing to do with safety.

Governments that regulate individuals’ behavior are to be feared for becoming overweight and obese with power. The concern here should be about liberty, and the toy that should be taken away is the power of government to protect us from our own behavior.

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