Monday, June 21, 2010

"Happy Meals" and Drug Dealers, what is the connection?

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence in the UK is recommending that the government force food producers to work with their new guidelines to produce healthier foods. According to their press release, this will save lives:
Cut salt and saturated fat levels in processed food to save thousands of lives, says NICE: "Tens of thousands of lives could be saved, and millions of people spared the suffering of living with the effects of heart disease and stroke, simply by producing healthier food says new NICE guidance today (Tuesday 22 June). The guidance calls for the food industry to further reduce the salt and saturated fats in the food it produces, building on the good work already started."
When I was a prosecutor in Baltimore, near the end of my service I was trying to work out some sort of case where the defendant was accused of selling marijuna. It must have been consolidated with my more serious felony case as I was not a felony drug prosecutor. When we approached the judge to discuss a possible plea, the defense attorney said that the young man had turned his life around and was now working at McDonalds. Having sworn off everything with a drive-through at that time, I wryly commented to the judge and his attorney, "he's killing more people now than he ever did selling marijuana." We all had a good laugh, but it was true.

I don't think we should shut down fast food operations or even force them to serve healthier foods, despite the fact that this would save many lives. But I don't have a problem with using persuasion and other non-violent tactics to encourage restaurants to serve healthier products. I feel the same way about drugs. Let's encourage other people not to use them. Let's not encourage their sale. I don't have a problem with going after those who target children. "Happy meals" should be banned and the people who sell them aren't much better than drug dealers who target kids, in my humble opinion. But at the end of the day, adults have the responsibility to inform themselves about what they put into their bodies and have the right to make their own decisions about what foods and drugs they might want to consume.


  1. People who sell Happy Meals are nearly the equal of drug dealers who target children? And what does that make a parent who buys a Happy Meal for his child?

    Also, if you don't endorse the use of violence to encourage restaurants to serve healthier foods, how do you propose to enforce banning the sale of Happy Meals?

    Respectfully, I encourage you to drop this line of argument. If you think parents can't decide for themselves what their children should eat, then it follows they are unable to decide for themselves what to put into their own bodies. This is no position for an anti-prohibitionist to endorse.

  2. The comment is pushing the envelope a bit to provoke discussion.

    They cynically push these 'happy' 'meals' to parents and children, making them look fun with tools and the like, in order to get children started with bad eating habits that will benefit the corporations while leaving the children with serious health problems such as diabeties, cancer, and heath disease. Sort of reminds one of how Joe Camel and other cartoons were used by the cigarette companies to target children, only this is much more blatant and harmful.

    Maybe we shouldn't have a law against it, but people should at least be aware of what is going on.

  3. As a parent with young children, and as someone who was hoodwinked by fast food as a child and young adult and subsequently had to make MAJOR changes to his lifestyle as an adult in order to stave off impending disease... YOU BET that this is a valid argument!

    Commercially processed food is RIGGED to trigger the same habit-forming, and even physically-addicting, behaviors of drug addiction.

    I don't think drug or food prohibition is the answer AT ALL, but we need some truthful education and envelope-pushing conversation to change people's perceptions. I would agree wholeheartedly with the proposition that "fast food causes more death and societal harm than the cannabis plant". If you look closely you'll find that it's true. Eat crappy food, and don't eat essential nutrients, and you'll suffer from physical, mental, and emotional impairments.

    Anyone who's lived off of fast food and then suddenly started eating a health-promoting diet knows that those impairments are very REAL.

    And while we're on the subject of drugs, may I remind readers that caffeine, a drug that has clear dangers and directly causes hospitalization and death every year, is sold on the open market to any youngster that has a few coins in their pocket. And this is socially acceptable in that the only thing some states seem to be doing is adding taxes to those products.

  4. I worked at a McDonalds in the early 80's while in high school. I preferred Friendly's where I was a short order cook, among other things. Friendly's had much better food.

    I also worked as a teacher right around the time when vending machines were making their way in to public schools. Now that really pissed me off.

    Personally I think advertising aimed at pre-teens should be banned. Besides being grossly unfair to parents, it's nothing more than preying on children.

    Whenever I hear about fast food restaurants under pressure to offer healthy foods, I recall the stories about how they somehow manage to make salads have more calories than burgers, it's all via the dressing, or fake bacon crumbs. Ironic, people go there and eat a salad but are downing more calories than if they ate the burger with fries and drank their belly-wash of liquid sugar.

    But at the end of the day, adults have the responsibility to inform themselves about what they put into their bodies and have the right to make their own decisions about what foods and drugs they might want to consume.
    I agree. Mainly I'd like to see that the information is presented "intelligently," not too dumbed down, not too complicated.

  5. Hi Gldnspud, glad you like the blog. Please come back and visit us often. :-)

    Interesting comments re: caffeine. I read somewhere that the region where I live is actually thinking about banning the sale of high caffeine drugs to minors.

  6. I'll have to defend caffeine here. There are many health benefits to its use. I take it daily in high doses. I have a family history of Parkinson's disease and I am trying to avoid that. Caffeine helps.


    The above site tells you some of the benefits of caffeine, but it can cause problems for kids.
    "While all reports conclude that caffeine causes no significant loss of calcium in adults, it's an entirely different case for children. It's widely thought that coffee will, as kids say, "stump your growth." It does worse than stunt; it destroys: caffeine actually dissolves the calcium in young bones.

    When a test group of 13-to-18-year-olds drank an unsweetened caffeinated drink, their urinary calcium output increased by 25 percent (to 20 mg per hour for three hours). When they drank caffeine-plus-sugar, their calcium loss was 30 mg/hour. Phosphorus, found in most colas, accelerates bone loss even more; one cola costs as much as 120 milligrams of calcium. Furthermore, a soft drink after a workout also depletes children's sodium, chloride, and potassium, causing sore muscles and delayed recovery time after exercise."

    But for adults, it is all good.

    See also

    There have been more than 19,000 studies on caffeine and coffee in the past 30 years in an attempt to determine its exact effects on the human body. One of the most thorough and exhaustive studies was done by Harvard University, in which they examined 126,000 people over an 18-year period. The findings indicate that people who drink one to three cups of coffee a day are up to 9 percent less likely to contract diabetes. What's interesting is what happened to those who drank six or more cups of coffee per day - men slashed their chances of contracting diabetes by 54 percent, and women by 30 percent [source: Kirchheimer].

    Other studies have shown similar results in many facets of human health:

    Regular coffee drinkers are 80 percent less likely to develop Parkinson's disease.
    Two cups a day gives you 20 percent less risk of colon cancer.
    Two cups a day causes an 80 percent drop in cirrhosis.
    Two cups a day prevents gallstone development by 50 percent.
    It has also shown to be beneficial in asthma, stopping headaches, boosting mood and even preventing cavities [source: Kirchheimer].


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