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Topics Homepage> The U.S. should adopt San Francisco's Healthy Food Incentives Ordinance nationwide, aka the Happy Meal ban

The U.S. should adopt San Francisco\'s Healthy Food Incentives Ordinance nationwide, aka the Happy Meal ban

PRO (3 assertions)


1) Did you know that last year, Americans spent over $156 billion on McDonald's food?

2) A poll was done by TheStreet, a newspaper, to see how many of the readers thought passing a bill that bans Happy Meals. A whopping 92.3% of the 194 voters though the bill a bad idea, while just 7.7%, or 15 voters, thought it could help fight childhood obesity.

1. Assertion: It is unethical to entice children to eat these horribly unhealthy foods by using a toy.

Reasoning/Evidence: This is a clear form of bribery. How is it right at all to dupe children into wanting Happy Meals because of a toy? This is clearly wrong. Younger children who are uninformed of the hazards and unhealthiness of Happy Meals do not know how they are hurting their bodies. Their focus is the toys, not the healthiness of the meal. The Center for Science in the Public Interests says that the toys in children's Happy Meals are making them obese. They threatened to file a law suit against McDonald's, charging that the fast food chain "unfairly and deceptively" markets the toys to children. "McDonald's marketing has the effect of conscripting America's children into an unpaid drone army of word-of-mouth marketers, causing them to nag their parents to bring them to McDonald's," CSPI's Stephen Gardner wrote to the heads of the chain in a letter announcing the lawsuit.

2. Assertion: The health problems created by the obese children, who ate Happy Meals, cost the U.S. a lot of money.

Reasoning/Evidence: Obesity has enormous economic impact. Obesity causes many diseases, which leads to spending even more money on health care. The U.S. is currently in an economic crisis, and we need to cut spending to meet budgets. If we can stop the preventable illnesses, the U.S. would not be in so much debt. Obesity can be avoided by eating the right foods. If one eats McDonald's every day, they are not helping our crisis at all. Once they are obese, the chances of getting a deadly disease is much higher. If those who cannot afford insurance become obese, then the U.S. will have to spend more money to pay the hospitals where they are treated. Therefore, we should avoid these horrible paths and instead live healthy lifestyles. The cost of obesity in US is estimated to be $117 billion a year, a large majority of this coming from fast food. This sum includes the direct cost of treatment and indirect costs associated with loss of work time and productivity. The direct health care cost of childhood obesity in US alone is estimated to be $14 billion per year. The costs of treating problems associated with childhood obesity are continuing to grow. Annual hospital costs were estimated to be $127 million between 1997 and 1999. Compared to the annual costs recorded between 1979 and 1981, this represents increase of $35 million per year. As the prevalence of childhood obesity continues to grow, it is almost certain that the overall cost of treatment will continue to grow. This will, in turn, drive further increases in the cost of health care in the affected regions.

3. Assertion: The toys entice the children to order the unhealthy Happy Meals, which cause obesity. This leads to many different diseases and ultimately, death.

Reasoning/Evidence: Being obese increases a child's risk for some serious childhood medical problems, including asthma, heart disease and high blood pressure, sleep apnea and breathing problems, bone conditions, such as hip problems, gastro-intestinal diseases, and psychological problems, like poor self-esteem and depression. During the past 20 years, there has been a dramatic increase in obesity in the United States and rates remain high. In 2010, no state had a prevalence of obesity less than 20%. Thirty-six states had a prevalence of 25% or more; 12 of these states had a prevalence of 30% or more. It has been estimated that 1 in 3 children will be born with diabetes. Obese children are more than twice as likely as non-obese children to have diabetes. Overweight adolescents have a 70% chance of becoming overweight or obese adults (this increases to 80% if one or more parent is overweight or obese).

In children who are overweight, between 25 percent and 40 percent will have the metabolic syndrome that sets the stage for diabetes and heart problems. A cheeseburger Happy Meal with fries and a Sprite at McDonalds has 640 calories and 24 grams of fat. This is over twice the calories many children should be eating in a day. The average serving size for burgers, fries, and sodas has more than tripled since the 1970s. Rates of obesity in America have increased steadily over the last 30 years, a time period that has witnessed an explosion in numbers of fast food restaurants, vending machines and convenience stores. A study by the University of California at Berkeley (2009) determined that, for children at least, easy access to fast food outlets increased the risk of obesity. A fast food restaurant within a tenth of a mile of a school increased the risk of obesity in ninth graders by 5.2 percent.

CON (3 assertions)

1) Did you know that an estimated 17% of young people aged 2-19 years, or 12.5 million children, are obese and about an equal number are overweight, according to the Centers for Disease Control?
2) Did you know that a childls Happy Meal, consisting of a cheeseburger, fries, and a soda, is 840 calories? This is 360 calories away from the amount that an average 4-8 year old should eat.

San Francisco's Healthy Food Incentives Ordinance -- Chain restaurants no longer will be able to give away free toys with Happy Meals and other children's meals that don't meet the city's strict nutritional standards. They are that the meal wonlt be allowed to sell with a toy if the food and drink in the meal contain more than 600 calories, more than 640 milligrams of sodium and if less than 35 percent of the calories are derived from fat (less than 10 per cent from saturated fat), except for fat contained in nuts, seeds, eggs or low-fat cheese. In addition, the meals must contain a half-cup or more of fruit and three-quarters of a cup or more of vegetables. A breakfast meal must contain at least a half-cup of fruit or vegetables, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

1. Assertion: The people get the right to choose. If Happy Meals are banned, the First Amendment is violated.

Reasoning/Evidence:If we have the right to choose what to say, if we have the right to choose what to wear, why can't we choose what to eat? One of the fundamental ideas for our country is freedom. Freedom is the right to choose and make decisions for yourself. If we can't even choose what to eat, as you can see, it is undermining democracy by not to let us choose what to eat. It is our right as citizens of the United States of America to choose how we will lead our lives, including what we eat. McDonald's revamped its Happy Meal choices in 2004 by including soda alternatives such as 1 percent milk with a meal of hamburger, cheeseburger or chicken nuggets and fries, and offering an option of replacing the fries with sliced apples served with low-fat caramel sauce. In 2006, McDonald's began advertising a version of its Happy Meal that included chicken nuggets and the apple slices, marketed as Apple Dippers because of the caramel sauce. It hasn't advertised Happy Meals with burgers and fries since then. The result is that 88 percent of customers know about the meal's fruit option, according to the company. But only 11 percent of kids meals are ordered with apples instead of fries.

2. Assertion: The ban is actually causing obesity.

Reasoning/Evidence: Because the happy meal came with a small fries, a small drink, and a small hamburger or chicken nuggets with the toy, by feeding children the smaller portions, it was helping them from choosing bigger portions that could potentially make them overweight. When they could buy the meal with the toy for the same money as a meal twice the size (and twice the calories) for the same amount of money, if the toy was gone, the children would turn to the bigger portions, and higher amounts of fat and calories. Therefore, by banning the toy, the children are actually becoming more unhealthy. Before the ban, McDonald's customers could buy the toy for $2.18 without having to buy a Happy Meal. That option no longer exists: Parents must buy the Happy Meal to access the 10-cent toy option. That means San Francisco's law is likely to result in the sale of more unhealthy children's meals and make more money for McDonald's.

3. Assertion: These toys benefit the economy immensely.

Reasoning/Evidence: Happy Meals definitely benefit the economy. McDonalds uses the toys as an incentive to buy their food. According to the Wall Street Jounal, Happy Meals make up about 10% of McDonald's sales. As you may know, McDonalds is one of the biggest chains restaurants around the world. If they aren't allowed to have an incentive for people to buy their food, then their business will go down, effecting the worldwide economy. If other businesses are allowed to use incentives for people to buy their food, and McDonalds isn't allowed to, it would simply be deemed unfair. Also, there are millions of jobs created for poor people and others who couldn't get a job any other way. In 1970, Americans spent about $6 billion on fast food; in 2000, they spent more than $110 billion. The cost of a Happy Meal is around $3 to $5. Every year, McDonalds sells around 2.5 million happy meals. This adds up to about 10,000,000 dollars just from happy meals. Now add that to all the other chain restaurants that sell kid's meals. That is millions and millions of dollars every year! These profits would never have been achieved without the toys. The toys are the motivational item that makes kids want to buy the meals. Without the toys, children will not be enticed to eat more kid's meals. This will negatively affect the fast food places and our U.S. economy. That's more money than Americans spent on video games, movies, recorded music, books, magazines, and newspapers-combined. They make up one of the biggest sectors of the American economy.

And in these hard times, closing down a large contributor to our economy is certainly not sensible. McDonald's annually trains more new workers than does the U.S. Army. 1 in 8 Americans has, at one point in their lifetime worked behind the counter at McDonald's. Without Happy Meals and the toys as incentives, over 1/4 of the American population would be unemployed. That means that out economy would collapse, no one would make money, and we'd fall in to a deeper recession. No one wants that. This ban is harming the U.S. and its people.