The XX Factor

Suing McDonald’s Won’t Make a Single Child Skinnier


The problem with suing McDonald’s (and/or the entire fast-food industry) is, among other reasons, that it won’t do any good. No one is going to get skinny if McDonald’s has to stop offering toys with its Happy Meals.

The analogy to alcohol and tobacco is convenient but not perfect. Tobacco and alcohol can both be addictive, and they are already legal only for adults. It makes sense to keep companies from marketing products to consumers who aren’t legally allowed to purchase them. And besides, you don’t need alcohol or tobacco to survive. But food is a basic requirement for life. Now, McDonald’s itself isn’t a basic requirement for life, but singling out certain companies over others starts us down a slippery slope. And in this case, I think that’s a pointless journey.

Say that Monet Parham and the killjoys at the Center for Science in the Public Interest win their lawsuit, and McDonald’s bans toys in its Happy Meals. Let’s say that they even make McDonald’s offer apple slices instead of French fries. The tired mom who can’t say to McDonald’s is only going to be more stressed out when her son screams that he wanted fries.  I see a couple possible outcomes there: You just skip the kids meals and order your kids the full-sized meals that come with fries. Which is even MORE calories for them. Or you upgrade to a casual sit-down restaurant that might not give your kids a cheap plastic toy but has other distractions that let you vegetate while your kids get their hamburgers or chicken fingers and fries.  (It’s really not that much more expensive, trust me.)

And, aside from all that, obesity is a complex problem with many causes. We watch too much TV. Our kids don’t play outside enough. They spend too much time in a car instead of walking. They eat bad food at home.

KJ is actually more sympathetic to the situation than I am, and I appreciate her considered take on the issue. Yes, this is a problem we’re all going to have to solve.  A multifaceted problem like obesity is going to require a multifaceted solution. But it’s got to start within the family. Parents need to start with a sense of responsibility instead of starting by blaming others.  If you’re kid is seduced by too many commercials, turn off the television. Hey, that kills two birds with one stone.