San Francisco was leading at the end of the first inning by a score of 1-0. I think San Francisco thought they had won the game, beating McDonalds soundly. But it turns out that there are more innings to be played, and McDonalds is leading at the end of the second.
Let me explain what I’m talking about. I’ve been watching with interest a “game” going on in San Francisco, California. (A battle? A war?) The Board of Supervisors approved a city ordinance some time ago making it illegal to give away toys in children’s meals unless those meals met certain nutritional standards. These standards were drawn to make sure that McDonald’s could no longer give away toys in their Happy Meals. For kids, the meals would become toyless “Unhappy Meals.” Thus, San Francisco would be protecting children from the evils of french fries, fat, salt, and other dangers.
McDonalds actually changed the contents of its Happy Meals, lowering the number of fries and adding fruit. But, alas, these changes were not enough for the Happy Meals to meet the San Francisco standards. It looked like McDonalds lost the game.
But McDonalds wasn’t finished playing. According to an article in the New York Times, McDonalds adopted a new strategy. As of today, when the ordinance went into effect, McDonalds would take the free toys out of the Happy Meals . . . and they would sell them for ten cents. Moreover, to rub salt into San Francisco’s wound, McDonalds will donate the proceeds from the sales of the toys to San Francisco’s Ronald McDonald House, a charity that cares for families with children going through difficult hospitalizations.
But you can be sure that San Francisco isn’t done with the game. Notice what the Times reports:
Dr. Rajiv Bhatia, director of occupational and environmental health at San Francisco’s Department of Public Health, said McDonald’s strategy did not mean the ordinance had failed.
“We are going to learn from how the industry responds,” Dr. Bhatia said, “and do what’s necessary to improve regulation.”
You can bet that San Francisco will soon “improve regulation” to find a way to keep McDonalds from selling the Happy Meal toys. According to Harold Goldstein, executive director of the California Center for Public Health Advocacy, McDonald’s new effort will “gut this health ordinance,” and “continue to seduce children to eat junk food.” He added: “In the battle over children’s health, consider this a win for obesity and diabetes.” Oh, and also families with hospitalized children. Ouch!
Actually, I don’t think there is a win here. The game isn’t over. Wouldn’t it be something if city leaders and McDonalds found a way to sit down and create a win-win solution? Ties count in this game of baseball.