San Francisco ruined the McDonald’s Happy Meal

Kids meals in San Francisco aren’t so happy anymore.

That’s because the city council has effectively banned the McDonald’s Happy Meal. The council voted earlier this month to require fast food meals with toys to meet certain nutritional guidelines.

What is the reasoning behind the ban? “Happy meals make kids fat.”

My brother and I grew up on Happy Meals. I will never forget our meal of choice: Chicken McNuggets with sweet and sour sauce. What wasn’t there to love? It had everything: a cool box, good food, and of course, a toy. My brother grew up to be a star baseball player in college. And as for me? Let’s just say I could use a few more McDonald’s meals in my diet, because I’m as skinny as a french fry.

Eating McDonald’s as a kid didn’t implant a craving for the food into my mind. It didn’t make me want to overindulge in fatty foods later in life.

Joe Eskenazi at the San Francisco Weekly hits the nail on the head. “It seems the San Francisco Board of Supervisors has accomplished what the Hamburglar never could. They’ve made off with McDonald’s fare,” he wrote.

But are toys really the only thing the city council has taken away?

Who are they to mandate how parents should feed their kids? Where is the personal responsibility? If you don’t want them to eat the food, take them someplace else. If they still nag you enough to take them to Micky D’s, choose healthier options, like apple dippers.

If a city can tell McDonald’s that they can’t put toys in Happy Meals, what could be next? Will they take away our gelato in Scooters? If they deem bacon unhealthy, will they tell Mary how to make her sandwiches in the Binz? The government can’t even effectively run the DMV or the post office, so why should we trust it to make decisions about our food?

Is getting rid of toys really the best way to fight childhood obesity? The city officials in San Francisco seem to think so. It’s as if they think people are incapable of making personal decisions. Parents can always swap for healthier food options, and kids can get plenty of exercise outside. There’s no need to take the “happy” out of the Happy Meal.

Long before the golden arches, our founding fathers wrote the Constitution. They didn’t mean for the government to micromanage our lives. The document was only four pages long, and mainly described what the government can’t do to the people, not the reverse.

So city, state and national officials: can you please get your priorities in order? College students are graduating and unable to find jobs. Stop the witch hunt of Happy Meal toys and set your sights on the economy.

In the meantime, I’m going to McDonald’s to get a Happy Meal. They still have toys here in St. Paul.

Zach Pagano can be reached at

53 Replies to “San Francisco ruined the McDonald’s Happy Meal”

  1. First off, I would like to acknowledge that it is incredible that we, as Americans, have the opportunity and privilege of expressing our opinions publicly if we so desire to. Zach, thank you for writing a piece which has gotten many of us thinking. That being said, this is one opinion, and one opinion only. Let’s all take a deep breath and look at the idea of this article at a human level.

    As humans, we are naturally opposed to change. When a habit (good or bad, right or wrong) has become integrated into one’s life, or even society, the thought of something being different can become upsetting, frustrating, and scary. However, when the change seems to have good intention and be for the better why would one not want to change? Sure we
    can all remember the happy meal, and reflect back on the memories with a smile. But let’s think about the real implications of getting a toy with the meal. It’s rewarding a child for eating nutritionally bad food. How can this be a good thing?

    Take a moment to think about the real reasoning behind why San Francisco would want to pass this ordinance.

  2. To me, it seems as if San Francisco has good intentions towards creatively solving a situation it believes to be a problem, at a small local level. Additionally, why don’t we all familiarize ourselves with the facts before getting all political. Facts are as followed and can be found on an article in the LA Times: The ordinance will not become effective until December 2011, the happy meals would provide fruits and veggies in all meals that include a toy, and restaurants may include a toy in the meal if the food/drink combined contains fewer than 600 calories and less than 35% calories from fat.

    So, is the happy meal really being destroyed?

  3. Strikes me that this is a completely appropriate exercise of municipal regulatory power.  It is incredibly, completely stupid, but it’s what the voters of San Francisco asked for when they elected their city council.  If San Franciscans now decide they want Happy Meals back, they can vote in new city councilmen in the next city election.  That’s not “big government” “intrusion.”  It’s not even “socialist” — and I speak as one who *does* agree that President Obama is a socialist.  This regulation — stupid as it is — is a perfect example of small-ball democracy in action.  It’s exactly what our Founders envisioned and what our veterans have fought for. 

    Now, don’t get me wrong: if a state or (worse) the federal government tried to impose a regulation like this, it would be a vast infringement on liberty and an abomination under the Constitution.  But this is a municipal regulation.  Municipalities (rightly) have extremely broad police authority under the Constitution.  If individual San Franciscans don’t agree with their city’s majority, they can vote with their feet and move.

    And, yes, I am a conservative Tea Party sympathizer.

    @Todd: …dude, not only did the trip NOT cost $200mil/day — the O’Reilly Factor actually *debunked* that rumour on…

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