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How to tackle childhood obesity?

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


Comments () | Archives (5)

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I believe that it is a good idea for the government to get involved with this. Banning fast food restaurants from including promotional toys will most likely decrease the desire that children have towards consuming this food. While the government can play a big role in helping this situation by banning the toys, a lot of the responsibility still falls on the parents of the children. Parents need to realize that it is not healthy for their children to be eating the food that these restaurants are providing. Children who are overweight by 8 years old are 80% more likely to become overweight or obese adults. In the past 20 years the amount of overweight and obese children has doubled and in adolescents it has tripled. We all need to make an effort in changing this trend and it starts with parent awareness.


Hello LA from Sydney. Firstly I am no left leaning socialist who feels the state must do everything to protect individuals - for many years I was a strategy leader at GE and did my MBA in the US. A number of years ago I set up a social enterprise in the early childhood space and I was the first to say it is the responsibility of the parent ..hey just look at me ..look at my self discipline ..those lazy mother feeding their children junk.

Sadly it is a lot more complicated than that ... after spending a lot of time better understanding the neuroscience of behaviour ..the fact children are under almost a hypnotic state until the age of 4 (theta brainwaves) .. my view now is that the only way to stop the obesity epidemic is to stop the marketing and if I had my way the sale of such food (it is not really food as it has zero nutritional value) to young children.

And to those that work for the large junk food manufactures ..those that develop marketing schemes from selling toys ..to selling happiness ..yes happiness in a Coke bottle. This is almost morally bankrupt and should be viewed in the same light as pushing tobacco was. Again my whole life has been spent as a free marketeer ..and to some extent I still am. But when you see thousands of children as young as 4 being teased for being fat ..knowing that so many of lifes joys will not be theres ..then you start to change your mind as to how we need to solve this problem. As we say in Australia ..it is time to stop spending billions pissing in the wind ..all the education information stuff does not work.

I think your readers may like this ..it was pulled shortly after its release because it upset some of the junk food people


All the Best

Yessenia Lua

First, I would like to say that it is a good idea for the government to get involved in this problem that has increased over the years but we can't expect for the problem to decrease. Parents have to be responsible and be a part of the solution. They should be able to say no when they know its right. If the child starts to cry, let them cry. They have to respect the parents decision and understand its best for them and their future. We can't blame fast food restaurants for the health problems of today. They are just trying to make money. We need to make better decisions and try to prevent obesity.


I would like to say that our government has been trying to take over all aspects of our lives and we need to let them know that there is a time and a place. This is not one of those times, it should be left up to the parents as to what their children eats. Yes the parents need to teach the kids a better eating habit, but we all do this when we are short on time by getting something quick. I am so tired of hearing about some ridiculous law suit over one thing or another. The fast food industry is NOT holding a gun to our heads saying "eat this and lots of it" They are doing what any other company is doing, promoting thier products. It is up to us to limit how much we consume.

Emily Diaz

Its to blame the parent your not or their not doing their role show you love and care by saying NO! your the boss not the child.



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The Opinion L.A. blog is the work of Los Angeles Times Editorial Board membersNicholas Goldberg, Robert Greene, Carla Hall, Jon Healey, Sandra Hernandez, Karin Klein, Michael McGough, Jim Newton and Dan Turner. Columnists Patt Morrison and Doyle McManus also write for the blog, as do Letters editor Paul Thornton, copy chief Paul Whitefield and senior web producer Alexandra Le Tellier.

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