I was a little bit encouraged while reading the news today, which is quite unusual. Fast food companies are going to start addressing the problem of childhood obesity by no longer giving away little plastic toys in ‘happy meal’ type promotions. This is actually good in several ways. Firstly, it reduces the desire to have more happy meals in order to collect more toys. This is the desired outcome of the marketing in the first place and the fast food industry has recognised it as contributory to childhood obesity. Of course, we all know that the industry is only making these concessions as quickly as possible in an effort to stop the entire banning of junk food advertising. However, let’s be glad of every step forward.

Interestingly, spokespeople for the fast food companies have been saying how the banning of advertising won’t help anyway. Their theory is that the advertising does nothing to promote the consumption of their product; it simply raises awareness of their particular brand. Well, that’s quite plainly a steaming pile of horse turds. If the advertising didn’t result in sales, the companies wouldn’t pay premium rates for it. Of course, the average consumer if considered daft as a brush and corporations prey on this all the time to make us consume more of their crap.

Anyway, they’re going to stop giving away these little plastic trinkets with meals and that’s a good thing. Not only will it hopefully reduce the desire for these meals in the first place, but it should also stop thousands of tons of useless, poorly made plastic novelties from ending up in landfill three weeks after they’re “bought”. Kids have a notoriously short attention span in the first place. Giving them more throw away toys is pointless and unnecessary and everyone knows this. However, the companies create a need, the child complains that it needs this latest thing and the dumb parent concedes and perpetuates the cycle.

Which brings us neatly to the root of the problem. Why do parents let their children eat this rubbish anyway? Anyone with the slightest concern for their child’s wellbeing should avoid a burger joint like they would avoid a campsite for proud paedophiles. If there was ever any proof needed that these things lack any nutritional benefit whatsoever, one only needs to look at the burger on display at the Alpha Gallery in Erskineville. The artist Greg Shapley and his friend bought the cheeseburger at Blacktown McDonalds in January last year. It was exhibited last year and is appearing again from today at Alpha. According to Shapley, “Miraculously, it has not deteriorated at all; the meat is not maggotted, and the cheese is as fresh as the day is was, umm, …processed.”

Not miraculous at all really. It would need fresh, nutritional ingredients to go off. So let’s be thankful that the companies are starting to address the inherent problems of feeding this offal to our kids (grown-ups should know better, after all, and deserve everything they get). Although, it does occur to me that perhaps we’ve got this the wrong way around. If only we could convince these companies to keep the happy meals, but instead of not supplying toys, perhaps they could supply only the toys and ban the “food”. I would venture a guess that the toy would have more nutritional value than the burger.