We haven’t weighed in yet on the latest crazy development in the food world, that attack by some of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors on “Happy Meals.” And no, this is not sour grapes for the Giants having beaten the Phillies. The Board of Supervisors recently voted to ban meals packaged with toys unless the meal contains fruits and vegetables, is less than 600 calories and is very low in fat and sodium, and, presumably, doesn’t taste good and won’t make your kid happy.
So much is wrong with that, it’s hard to know where to start.
It undercuts the rights of consumers to choose. If more people wanted these kinds of meals, more fast food restaurants would sell them. (You can get carrots and milk with a Happy Meal by the way.) That’s the way a free economy is supposed to work. San Francisco (or at least a majority of the Board) is simply taking choice away from consumers, the right to eat or drink what he or she chooses. Apparently, these Board members are part of that new government mindset in which individuals are incapable of making decisions for themselves. Only the government can make those choices.
But, it’s about obesity in children, argues the Board. We say parents, not politicians, should decide what their children eat. So the impact on kids is actually another reason this bill is a bad idea, an unwise and unprecedented governmental intrusion into parental responsibilities and family choices. It is a parents’ right and responsibility — not the government’s — to make their own decisions and to choose what’s right for their children.
On this basis, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom wisely vetoed the ban on Happy Meals, but the Board of Supervisors voted 8-3 just this week to override Newsom’s veto.
Put aside the policy debate, one of the most troubling aspects is the quote from a sponsor that this bill was part of “an agenda of food justice.” Seen in this light, the bill is part of a broader legal campaign that will include litigation against food companies. Indeed, as we have posted on before, the so-called Center for Science in the Public Interest has threatened to file a lawsuit against McDonald’s, attacking the company’s marketing of Happy Meals. In our view, the CSPI needs to worry more about junk science than junk food.