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How to tackle childhood obesity?

November 9, 2010 | 10:26 am

Happy Meal

In a recent editorial, the board came out against a proposal in San Francisco (which has since passed) to ban promotional toys that come with fast-food meals unless those meals meet nutritional requirements.

This is a particularly ill-considered weapon in the war against childhood obesity because it removes a choice that rightly belongs to parents […] This is where the federal government could helpfully step in, not by regulating what people choose to eat but by convening a panel of experts in this field to develop an array of effective proposals that cities could consider, while avoiding options that trample on the rights of individual consumers.

Elaborating on a study by Yale University researchers about the marketing of fast foods to children, Kelly Brownell wrote Monday for the Atlantic’s food section that the government must step in. The Yale professor and director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity said:

It has the authority to restrict marketing aimed at children and also has sway over what goes into food (for example, a number of cities in the U.S. and the entire country of Denmark have banned trans fats in restaurant foods). It is only a matter of time before government exercises this authority, driven by grave concern over rising healthcare costs, recognition that children need protecting, and legislators responding to public outrage as people learn just what industry is doing. Children's health is not something to be auctioned off to big food companies.

What role should the government take in combating childhood obesity? Ban vending machines at schools? Discourage soda consumption? Build alluring recreational facilities at parks? Please, weigh in.

-- Alexandra Le Tellier

Photo: A Happy Meal at McDonald's in San Francisco. Credit: David Paul Morris / Getty Images

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