- The Washington Times - Friday, July 29, 2011

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

For 32 years, kids have enjoyed the “Happy Meal” from McDonald's. Parents would often trade these toy-stocked box meals for a night off cooking or the promise of good behavior on a long car ride. That could change as Big Brother seeks to solve the supposed childhood obesity epidemic by dictating how food should be made and marketed to anyone under the age of 17.

The world’s No. 1 fast-food burger joint has been battered into downgrading its beloved Happy Meals so they will now automatically include apple slices (minus the caramel dipping sauce) and a smaller order of french fries. This change will shrink the meal’s calories by 20 percent.

The culprit is an inter-agency working group made up of the Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of Agriculture, which came up with “guidelines” to force companies to limit “the saturated fat, trans fat, added sugars and sodium in foods marketed to children.”

It takes three government agencies to figure out what every parent knows already: Kids like junk food more than healthy food. McDonald's already knows it, too. The company found that while 88 percent of its customers are aware that fries in a Happy Meal can be swapped for apple slices, only 11 percent chose the healthier option.

If the overpaid bureaucrats had actually stepped into a McDonald's, they would have realized any kid left to himself is just going to chuck the fruit into the garbage can.

Washington can mandate all the healthy foods it wants, but if parents aren’t enforcing smart choices, kids will find a way to eat junk.

Parents used to deal with tubby tots by banning junk food from the home, turning off the TV and sending them outside to play. Now, our nanny government insulates kids from the tiniest dangers, even as small as a peanut.

The occasional Happy Meal is not supersizing our kids. The real problem is absentee parents who allow video games to substitute for exercise and mac ‘n’ cheese to take the place of roast chicken and green beans. Uncle Sam makes a lousy surrogate parent; his new regulations aren’t going to make anyone healthier.

Emily Miller is a senior editor for the Opinion pages at The Washington Times.

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