Why "Happy Meals" Are a Crime
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When it comes to food, everybody’s got an opinion. Same goes for parenting. Mix the two together and you’ve got the makings of a culture war. Witness the recent scuffle between Sarah Palin and Michelle Obama over the White House’s rather tame Let’s Move campaign aimed at ending childhood obesity.
So last month, when the Center for Science in the Public Interest announced it was filing a class action lawsuit to stop McDonald’s from using Happy Meal toys to market to children, the fierce and ugly backlash against the mother of two who was brave enough to attach her name to the case was predictable.
But I am not interested in debating good or bad parenting. Nor am I interested in arguing over whether this lawsuit is a good idea. How many calories are in a Happy Meal and whether you can ask for carrots instead of fries is irrelevant to me. I am not even going to give you all the scary data about how America’s kids are getting fatter and sicker. Nor do I care whether the cause is fast food or video games.
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Michele Simon is a public health lawyer specializing in industry marketing and lobbying tactics. She is the author of Appetite for Profit: How the Food Industry Undermines Our Health and How to Fight Back , and research and policy director at Marin Institute , an alcohol industry watchdog group. She is grateful to live in Oakland, Calif., within walking distance of a farmers market. You can follow her on Twitter.