May 17 2011

Policy Focus: Government Fast Food Toy Bans

newsletter The government is increasingly trying to control what you can and cannot feed your children. In the name of improving children’s health, governments are banning toys in Happy Meals and considering numerous other regulations, taxes, and initiatives to limit how restaurants and other entities can market and prepare food. Yet studies show that these efforts are unlikely to improve children’s health.

Studies have failed to establish a clear link between fast food consumption and childhood obesity, or that government is effective in encouraging healthier eating. Toy bans are particularly bad policy since there is no evidence that they discourage people from purchasing fast food.

In fact, while there is little to suggest that government can micro-manage citizens into better shape, a growing body of empirical evidence suggests that parental involvement is key to improving the health of children. Several recent studies have shown that parental involvement—less television, family dinners, earlier bedtimes— is what keeps kids healthy.

Children need a strong parent who teaches the value of healthy eating, portion control, personal responsibility, and exercise. Unfortunately, by giving the government ever more responsibility for what children consume, policymakers are undermining parents and risk making our country less healthy.

Finally, government simply has no business dictating what Americans consume. Toy bans and other government attempts to control Americans’ food choices is paternalism at its worst and represent a loss of freedom that individuals and businesses shouldn’t tolerate.

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