Healthy Unhappy Meals

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When does mandating for health’s sake cross the line?

By John Pawlak

Every time I think society has hit rock bottom, someone proves me wrong.  
Last month it was the law makers of San Francisco.  They proposed a city ordinance that would force McDonald’s restaurants to add fruit and vegetables in their Happy Meals boxes.  
The ordinance focuses on McDonald’s strategy of including toys in the meal boxes, which the city claims is an unfair inducement for children to eat unhealthy food.
This raises an interesting question — do people have the right to be unhealthy, to eat or drink or do things that endanger their health?
Do you have the right to dip a pork rind into that jar of mayonnaise? Or slug down a Starbucks dark chocolate mocha Frappuccino coffee drink, ask for some extra cream cheese on that cheddar bagel and then enjoy half a pack of unfiltered Camels?  
Should it be illegal for you to mainline Cheetos?  Does the government have the right to prevent you from listening to Rush Limbaugh?  
Is there a need for legislated restrictions on physical or mental health?
For that matter, should people be allowed to live in cities like Bayonne, N.J.?  One summer, I almost passed out driving through it for lack of oxygen.  
Who should draw the line between personal responsibility and institutionalized control over our eating habits, our preference in clothes, which TV shows we watch, how early we go to bed at night, which brand of pork rinds we eat for breakfast?  
If Happy Meals are a danger to our children, then shouldn’t we outlaw rap music?  Why isn’t San Francisco addressing the dangers of wearing thongs on public beaches?  (It’s not particularly unhealthy to the people wearing them, but it sure hurts other people’s eyes!)
Health care is a political football that gets tossed around but never carried over the goal line.  Cigarettes are prohibited in public restaurants in most states and yet more than 45 million people still smoke. There are more than 1,800 DUI laws on the books, but more than one million drunk driving arrests are still issued every year.  The government spends $50 billion a year on its war on drugs and nearly two million drug-related arrests are made each year (about one every 18 seconds). This has become an embarrassment of riches for the drug cartels with an estimated $400 billion a year world market.
None of the candidates this year ever mentioned AIDS or infant mortality or domestic home violence or teenage pregnancy or homeless veterans, so I can only assume that all those problems were solved when I wasn’t paying attention.  
It’s nice to know that we live in a society that is more concerned with how high border walls should be or how to legislate the caloric intake from a grease burger than in addressing the medical problems associated with brain injuries for our soldiers who fought in Iraq.
But I digress. I was talking about how Big Macs make Big People and we just can’t allow that.  
I mean, who would have ever suspected that fast food could supersize us so fast? Forcing the restaurants to include a few stale carrot sticks and an apple wedge with that grease burger should make all the difference!  
Of course, law makers will have to then consider how to coerce the kiddies to eat the happy healthy food. Is it child abuse to force feed broccoli down your kid’s throat?
Outlawing fat food for our youth is only the tip of the overweight iceberg.  
I can envision civil rights attorneys getting fat off the lawsuits.
The future could look very unhappy for McDonalds. On the positive side though, our landfills are currently saturated with empty Happy Meal boxes.  
Mandating inclusion of veggies and fruit in those boxes would provide a glut of uneaten organic material into the landfills.  
Yes, definitely something to be happy about!
Well, I’d love to stay and chew the fat, but I hear a deep fried Twinkie calling my name!

John Pawlak
Los Alamos Columnist


right on!

i couldn't agree with you more!