Childhood Obesity – Blame the Toys or the Schools?

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In the strident discourse of modern society it is tempting to believe, and perhaps too often true, that the louder and more persistent the voice, the more likely it is to carry the day, rallying others to a cause by virtue of negativity, repetition, or pure volume.
But that is not always the case, thankfully. 

Happymeal
One case in point is the law regulating Happy-Meal-type toys, passed about a year and a half ago in San Francisco, and at the time deemed a threat to premium toys nationwide, perhaps worldwide. Some argued that toys encouraged children to order Happy-Meal-type fast food and were thereby a contributor to the rampant childhood obesity. A delightful surprise to come out of this development in San Francisco is that East Coast academics have looked at the relationshiop between Happy Meal premiums and childhood obesity and found that Happy Meals are in fact more nutritionally sound than much of what is served in school lunch programs. 

School lunches were found to be a significant contributor to childhood obesity and healthy changes in school meals have been the result.
I believe that there has been a modest improvement in the nutritional content of the Happy Meal, as well. 

Lunch
McDonald’s response to this was quiet and inspired. They took the toys out of the Happy Meal box and now offer them for sale separately for 10 cents, donating the dime to the Ronald McDonald's charity benefiting children and their families. 
This is pure genius, in my humble opinion. Happy Meals, already nutritious, are now improved. The Happy Meal toys have been removed, but are still available virtually for free - and those who choose to purchase a toy for one thin dime are benefiting a children's charity.
On top of that, school lunch programs have been identified as a culprit in the childhood obesity epidemic and are responding with improved nutrition. Cooler heads did indeed prevail. 
I can’t actually think of a second case of cooler heads prevailing. The CPSIA regulations that were passed in the last few years were predicited to have catastrophic consequences for the toy industry and other industries producing or retaling children's products. They were passed as a knee-jerk reaction to product safety blunders and missteps by Mattel, RC2, and perhaps others. The regulations as originally written were absurd in many cases, and without modification they might have been catastrophic, but in time, with amendments passed, it seems we have mostly all survived. 


Toy safety
One legacy of the CPSIA regulations is the dramatically increased cost of testing, often wastefully duplicative, resulting in higher prices of toys at retail. That is unfortunate, but it seems the consumer is still buying toys. We have survived and may once again thrive. Hopefully we will never again allow such safety regulations to be triggered and come crashing down on all our heads. "Once stung, twice shy," my mother would say. Would that she be right.

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