Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The stupid things we waste our time on

Santa Clara County bans toys in Happy Meals

Meanwhile, I read somewhere that an organization (whose name I can't remember) is trying to get a bill to the Senate to force food manufacturers to change the packaging on unhealthful items marketed to children in order to make them less attractive to them. On top of this the Federal Trade Commission is putting together an interagency task force to establish industry wide guidelines on child marketing.

Now, I generally have no problem with Big Brother breathing over my shoulder. Heck, if I'm not doing anything wrong, what do I have to worry about? And if I am? Well, serves me right. But there is a big difference between Big Brother and a Nanny State. A Nanny State I DO NOT DIG AT ALL. And here's why in this specific case: Children do not purchase Happy Meals or Fruit Loops, parents do.

I know that the argument is that these manufacturers market their sugary, fattening products to children in such a way that it places pressure on parents to purchase it for their children abd they've got a point - they do! My response to this, however is: AND SO WHAT? As a parent, I don't have to buy the darn things. If I think that something is bad for my child, I don't care how much she whines and whinges and begs and tells me her friends are doing it, I'm not going to allow her to have it (at least not routinely - a little of what we love but is bad for us, doesn't hurt occasionally.)

The way I see it, it's just like drugs and alcohol and cigarettes: your kids' food habits are like everything else we manage or influence as parents -I see it as part of my parental responsibility to ensure I teach Daisy what's right and good and what's not. Will she sneak behind my back as she gets older? Yes. Will she go over to her friends' house and eat things I would never normally give her? Sure. Will she tell me that I am the worst mother in the entire world? Probably. But you know, that's life - I can't control everything. But for 18 years I get to decide what's best for her as much as I possibly can. After that, of course, all I can hope for is that I've given her the right life tools to make good decisions completely independently.

What I will not be doing if she reaches 18 and turns into a cow, however, is blaming food manufacturers for corrupting her with their enticing marketing.

I'm not exactly sure what we're surprised or mad about. That's their job. They're trying to sell products and make a profit. The US is, after all, the capital of capitalism. Free market and all that. Trying to tell companies that make products for children to produce and/or market their products in such a way as to make the children not want them is pretty stupid if you ask me. And it boggles my mind that people are spending time on this when there are so many other important issues to tackle in our country than can have a far greater influence on the health and well-being on our kids, who are the stewards of our country's future.

How about the fact that education is underfunded and school programs like arts and sports are being cut? The next most influential people in our childrens' lives are teachers, the next most important building next to our homes is their school. Yet we're allowing local governments to slash budgets, lay off teachers (or pay them so little that nobody decent would want the job), and close good programs. How about that? Do you think the "Nanny State" could maybe look at ensuring that my child receives a well rounded education so that she can head-out into the world and make a positive impact?

In childhood obesity, as with many other social ills, there is a socioeconomic and educational divide: obesity rates are higher amongst the poor and the poorly educated. So perhaps we should focus on better educating the youth of today to ensure a healthier populous tomorrow, rather than punishing for-profit companies for doing the very thing they are structured to do - make a profit.

And, for heaven's sake, let's return a little bit of personal responsibility back into our community. Although I am very left-leaning in the majority of my politics, that doesn't mean that I believe that the government should manage every area of my life to the extent that I have no responsibility for my actions or the consequences thereof. Similarly, I do not believe that, in a capitalist society, the government should have the right to impede a company's ability to turn a profit because some mommy can't learn to say no to her child.

3 comments:

e said...

I sort of agree with you, but I also think it's time to declare war on the food industry, kinda like we did against the tobacco industry. They might not add chemicals to their food (though they probably do), but it is designed to trigger addiction just the way cigarettes are. While I agree that parents need to suck it up a bit and do their parenting job, I also think these companies need to suffer a few serious defeats in court. So there.

Word verification of the day: pationce

TravelVixen said...

I'm not against regulating the content of the food, to some extent, as it relates to ingredients that are potentially harmful - that is and should be the FDA's job.

What seems silly, however, is asking manufacturers not to positively promote the products they are selling.

I think we're going at it the wrong way/from the wrong direction and, ultimately, sending the wrong signals in the process.

e said...

Yup, I agree.

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