The McDonald’s fast food chain is no stranger to controversy. It seems like any given moment, there are a handful of flare-ups implicating the McDonald’s corporation of all sorts of wrongdoings, and/or nefarious activities. Strangely, as vilified as they are, they are able to maintain their good standing with much of hungry America. I drive by the golden arches nearly everyday and see cars queued up and idling in the drive-thru line just waiting for that ubiquitous, and never-changing product.
Never-changing is the operative term here, as one of McDonald’s most popular and enduring menu items, the Happy Meal, has weathered a great deal of criticism and denunciation of recent. The McDonald’s Happy Meal, for those of us that have not had the pleasure, is a packaged meal in a box marketed towards children, usually consisting of a hamburger, fries, a soft drink, and a toy, which is usually a tie-in for a popular cartoon franchise or a blockbuster kids movie (e.g. Harry Potter, Cars, etc). Most recently, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, seeing the Happy Meal as a nutritional threat to children by drawing diners in with a toy, rather than sensible nutrition, passed an ordinance requiring meals that included toys with their purchase to meet strict nutritional requirements, thus putting a temporary ban on the three decade long tradition. As Joe Eskenazi of the SF Weekly reported, “It seems the San Francisco Board of Supervisors has accomplished what the Hamburglar never could. They’ve made off with McDonald’s fare.”
The fate of the Happy Meal, at least in San Francisco, hangs in the balance. Knowing McDonald’s, and having somewhat of an understanding of big business, they will ultimately be compliant and give the people (or the Board of Supervisors) what they want in the form of a more nutritionally balanced meal. But there will certainly be backlash, as this bad has made for quick comedic fodder for both bloggers and late night television. Some critics of the ordinance claim it is draconian, and that parents, not local government, should decide what their children eat, no matter how calorie-intensive.