Editorial: Government has no right to toy with private food companies’ incentives

A bill introduced to the New York City Council last week, with a possibility of making it into state legislation, would require restaurants to offer toys to accompany kids’ meals only if the meal meets standardized health requirements.

Leroy G. Comrie, the author of the bill and a Democrat from Queens, said eating healthy should be made “palatable and exciting” according to a recent article by the New York Times.

The bill states that any meal that contains more than 500 calories and 600 milligrams of sodium could not come with a toy.

The bill also requires that less than 35 percent of the calories come from fat. In turn, the new legislation would eliminate toys from many McDonald’s happy meals.

However, even if the restrictions on the kid’s meals prove effective as an for the pandemic of obesity in the United States, the bill still exerts too much governmental control over a private business and takes the control and responsibility of children’s nutrition away from parents.

While the legislation would affect only New York City — and possibly the entire state — it is the second such move to rid McDonald’s happy meals of toys.

In November 2010, the San Francisco board of supervisors banned toys from the meals with a veto-proof 8-3 decision.

As some in New York City seek the same result, we wonder: How is this much governmental interference in a private company acceptable?

America, founded on the basis of Adam Smith’s capitalism, should not be OK with any bill that unnecessarily limits the rights of a private company. The San Francisco decision and the proposed New York rule do just that.

These laws stick the nose of government in places it doesn’t belong. It allows government to usurp the role of parents under the disguise of protecting American children from obesity.

McDonald’s, and any other restaurant that sells kids’ meals, is already forced to release nutritional information of the meals it sells. A federal law was passed in March 2010 that requires chains with 20 or more stores to provide nutritional information to its customers.

The Food and Drug Administration states that nutritional information for restaurant and restaurant-type foods should be provided “by any reasonable means, including orally.”

According to the FDA’s website restaurants should have nutrition information in writing to ensure its validity.

This nutritional information allows customers to consume only that food which is personally acceptable. These laws allow parents to make conscious decisions about the food children eat.

Perhaps one of the most absurd aspects of banning toys in meals offered by McDonald’s is that the legislation purports that all children must eat at McDonald’s and therefore the government has a legitimate case to severely impede the private company’s goals.

If children don’t want McDonald’s they don’t — and probably won’t — eat there. If parents want their children to have different eating habits than what fast food chains provide, they won’t take them there.

McDonald’s and all restaurants provide a good and customers are not required nor bound to purchase the good. America has seen an increase in the amount of emphasis placed on eating healthier food. First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move initiative looks to fight childhood obesity and the government has started several websites, like myplate.gov.

This trend, however, is not sufficient ground to allow intrusive government control in a private company.

If that were the case, for instance, the desegregation of public schools would have never happened because a majority of Americans were staunchly against it.

America has long been the advocate for any minority and these pieces of legislation are antithetical to our country’s founding. If a food chain wants to offer toys — and the toys are legally sound and safe for children — the government should have no say.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, many states in America have obesity rates of more than 29 percent. But it is not the responsibility of the government or restaurants to fix America’s obesity problem.

Americans need to take responsibility for their own health decisions and dedicate themselves to eating right and exercising.

If Americans want healthy food and healthy food is what they will pay for, then McDonald’s and every other restaurant in the nation will quickly change its marketing strategies to keep up, because the consumers drive capitalism.

The government can’t — and should not attempt to — change Americans’ personal choices.

It is not the toys in happy meals that make Americans obese and unhealthy — it is Americans that make Americans obese and unhealthy.

Americans don’t need to rely on the government to tell them how to eat or how to feed their children.

As a spokeswoman for the mayor of New York said, “Our efforts have been focused on providing consumers with education, so that when they make choices, they are informed.”

The government’s role should not be to take choices away from citizens — it should be to help people make informed decisions about their own lives like it has done by requiring nutritional information of food at restaurants.

Without the freedom to make our own decisions, be they good or bad, America would cease to be the free America we know today.