Joe Camel Eats a Happy Meal…in Jail!


First they came for Joe Camel, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a camel. Or a smoker. Or whatever.

But now they're coming for the plastic crap in McDonald's Happy Meals. It was inevitable, really. The notion of sin being marketed to kids is a powerful one: There are already bans on flavored cigarettes "to deter youths." Likewise on candy cigs, and cartoon cigarette mascots.

So it was only a matter of time before someone applied the principle to fast food. Safe money was on California for this one, and lo and behold our sad tale takes place in Santa Clara county. And what better place to start than with a marketing gimmick that is, for once, actually aimed at kids: The toy in the Happy Meal.

Convinced that Happy Meals and other food promotions aimed at children could make kids fat as well as happy, county officials in Silicon Valley are poised to outlaw the little toys that often come with high-calorie offerings….

Believed to be the first of its kind in the nation, the proposal would forbid the inclusion of a toy in any restaurant meal that has more than 485 calories, more than 600 mg of salt or high amounts of sugar or fat. In the case of McDonald's, the limits would include all of the chain's Happy Meals—even those that include apple sticks instead of French fries.

And the justification? Health care costs, of course:

[Ken Yeager, the Santa Clara County supervisor who is behind the effort,] knows that even if the board passes his proposal, its effect would be small. Even so, he says, it's worth it.

"We're responsible for paying for healthcare in the whole county," Yeager said. "We pay close to $2 billion annually on healthcare, and the costs have done nothing but rise." A big part of the increase, he said, is costs related to obesity.

Government health care: Taking toys from children.