Here’s a story that’ll tickle your McRibs. On December 1 a law seemingly banning McDonald’s Happy Meals went into effect in San Francisco. The “Healthy Meal Incentives Ordinance” prohibits restaurants from giving away toys with meals that do not meet with the city’s approval — namely, meals with too many calories, too much salt or fat, or insufficient fruits and vegetables. Just a few days before the ordinance took effect, SF Weekly reports, McDonald’s announced it had found a simple way around the statute: Charge customers extra for the toys.
Now in order to obtain a Happy Meal toy, parents will first have to buy the meal and then pay an additional 10 cents, which will be considered a donation to Ronald McDonald House charities. With Burger King’s announcement that it will implement a similar policy, the Happy Meal ban has thus effectively been neutralized.
However, for the nanny-state types who thought they were protecting children from dangerous fast food, there is even worse news. Prior to December 1, McDonald’s stores in San Francisco actually allowed patrons to purchase a Happy Meal toy by itself for $2.18 rather than having to buy the meal to obtain the toy. Now that the Golden Arches are going to charge extra for the toys, they are discontinuing the toy-only policy. Henceforth, any parent wishing to purchase a Happy Meal toy for a child will be forced to buy the meal, too. This, the Independent Institute’s Anthony Gregory points out, is “another unintended consequence of a bad law, since now, on the margin, customers will sometimes opt to buy the greasy food targeted by the law just so they can get the toy, when before they would have not bought the food.”
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