retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Reuters reports that “fast-food companies are asking U.S. state legislators to remove restaurant marketing from local governments' regulatory menu, in the latest industry bid to stay a step ahead of anti-obesity laws.

“The lobbying push, which has succeeded in Arizona and gained traction in Florida, aims to stop marketing restrictions before they start. The efforts come as food companies face increasing scrutiny from the U.S. government over how they pitch their products to youngsters as obesity rates rise.

“Last year San Francisco became the first major city to require that McDonald's Happy Meals and other restaurants' meals for children meet certain nutritional standards before they can be sold with toys.”

There are two philosophical imperatives at work here.

One says that government - as an instrument of the electorate - has a perfect right and maybe even a duty to make sure that big companies do not target small children with less than nutritious food sold by offering them cheap toys.

The other says that bills such as the one passed in San Francisco represent an inappropriate government intrusion into how people live their lives and corporations conduct their business.
KC's View:
I’m not one of those people who believes that all government regulation is bad; I think there is such a thing as appropriate action for government to take, and that businesses cannot be allowed to operate unfettered. Swipe fees is one example - it seems sensible to me for the government to prevent credit card companies from gauging retailers and, by extension, consumers, with fees that are usurious. Nutrition information is another - it strikes me as appropriate for the government to say that fast feeders need to be transparent about how much fat, sodium and other stuff is in the food they sell.

But this Happy Meal stuff strikes me as a bridge too far. I’m a parent, I’ve raised three kids, and I cannot remember a single time when we took our kids to McDonald’s because they whined about a Happy Meal toy. (If they did whine about such thing, that would have resulted in an immediate “no.”) Parents can make these decisions, and we have to hope that responsible parents will made good and contextual decisions. If they don’t, or won’t, all the legislation in the world won’t help.