Santa Clara County Considering Limits on Fast Food Marketing to Children - The UltimateFatBurner Blog

Santa Clara County Considering Limits on Fast Food Marketing to Children

That sounds like a good thing, doesn’t it?  And maybe it is… but I have some real mixed feelings about it, nonetheless.  According to Nation’s Restaurant News…

SAN JOSE, Calif. (March  26, 2010) The Santa Clara County board of supervisors will begin to research the feasibility of creating a law aimed at battling childhood obesity by limiting the use of toys, digital games and other incentives in the marketing of restaurant meals to kids.

Supervisors voted 4-0 this week, with one board member absent, to grant its fourth district representative Ken Yeager’s request to have by April 27 pending language for a measure to prohibit the use of toys to market kids meals that do not meet certain, but not yet specified, nutritional standards.

…Yeager said that in 2006, the Federal Trade Commission estimated that restaurants sold 1.2 billion meals accompanied by toys to children under 12. He further noted that while there are currently no nutritional standards for meals marketed to children, a 2008 study by the Center for Science in the Public Interest found that 10 out of 12 meals exceeding the recommended caloric limits for children came with toys.

This reminds me of the action taken against “Joe Camel” – a controversial cartoon character used in ads for Camel cigarettes that targeted children and adolescents.  But there’s a critical distinction, I think.  Here’s the money quote:

“It’s hard to compete against the barrage of games and gimmicks,” Yeager said. “While parents are trying to teach their kids proper eating habits, corporations are marketing unhealthy food directly to children using incentives like toys or free digital media.”

The kids Joe Camel appealed to most likely started smoking on the sly – they bummed ciggies off their friends, or stole them from parents and relatives.  Fast food is a different story.  In truth, most “kids’ meals” with toys are are aimed at children under 10. Kids in this age range typically visit fast food restaurants with their parents (or other “responsible” adults). Thus, while it’s undeniably true that these marketing gimmicks are aimed at kids, the effort would be useless if it wasn’t enabled by the same people who are allegedly “trying to teach their kids proper eating habits.”

My kids are 17 and 20 now, but I recall their childhoods quite well.  Like most kids, they were attracted by the play areas and toys offered by some of the major fast food chains.  And y’know what? Most of the time (barring moves or vacations), I simply said “no.”

That was that, really.  My kids learned early in life that there was ZERO value to throwing tantrums or whining, so it wasn’t “hard to compete” with the commercial messages at all.   This is part of what being a parent is all about, after all.

So, I’m torn about stuff like this. On the one hand, I don’t mind seeing corporations taken down a few notches and  compelled to behave responsibly – in most cases, hell will freeze over before they’ll do it on their own.  But on the other hand, government regulation isn’t a substitute for responsible parenting – which is really what it all comes down to.

Author: elissa

Elissa is a former research associate with the University of California at Davis, and the author/co-author of over a dozen articles published in scientific journals. Currently a freelance writer and researcher, Elissa brings her multidisciplinary education and training to her writing on nutrition and supplements.


  1. The classic question between government regulation and personal responsibility!

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  2. I have never been a fan of to much government intervention. Although these days it seems like there is a lot of it. I agree that being a good and responsible parent would solve a lot of these issues with no need for intervention.

    It just seems like todays parents would rather give in to a tantrume throwing child than try to “teach” them. “No” is a word not in some parents vocabulary.

    Is what they are trying to do a bad thing? I don’t think so, but it should’nt be necessary.

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