Are Fast-Food Toys to Blame for Childhood Obesity?

Fast Food Toys

Fast Food Toys

In response to increasing rates of childhood obesity — and perhaps prompted by correspondingly high medical costs to treat conditions arising from this obesity — Santa Clara County, CA, has voted to ban toys in fast food meals that do not meet certain nutritional guidelines.

The restrictions are as follows:

  • the meal cannot exceed 485 calories
  • no one food item may contain more than 200 calories
  • the drink portion may contain no more than 120 calories
  • the salt content in any one item may not exceed 480 milligrams
  • the salt content in the entire meal may have no more than 600 milligrams
  • of the calories in the meal, no more than 35% may come from fat
  • finally, added sugar may provide no more than 10% of total calories.

According to the Childhood Obesity Foundation, approximately 25% of Canadian children between the ages of 2 and 17 may currently be classified as overweight or obese.  The Centers for Disease Control has this to say about the situation in the United States:

Childhood obesity has more than tripled in the past 30 years. The prevalence of obesity among children aged 6 to 11 years increased from 6.5% in 1980 to 19.6% in 2008. The prevalence of obesity among adolescents aged 12 to 19 years increased from 5.0% to 18.1%.

Overweight or obese children are at risk for cardiovascular disease, social and psychological problems, and bone and joint problems, as well as associated adult health issues if they grow into overweight or obese adults.  You can measure your child’s Body Mass Index (BMI) using the calculator found at the Centers for Disease Control website.

Santa Clara County’s action is, I think, a clever way to bring fast-food restaurants into line (or at least closer to the line) with current nutritional standards and advice.  By making nutritionally-damaging “kids’ meals” less attractive to children though eliminating the lure of the included toys, they may be able to hit the restaurants right where it hurts — in the pocketbook — and perhaps persuade them to take a step in the right direction.

Now it just remains to be seen whether or not Santa Clara’s councillors will be able to maintain their gutsy stand in the face of the inevitable opposition and lobbying of the giant fast-food industry.  Fingers crossed, guys.

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