November 3, 2010

Happy Meal Toys Banned In San Francisco

San Francisco's Board of Supervisors has voted to prohibit fast food restaurants from offering free toys with high-calorie, high-fat kids meals, making it the first city in the United States to establish health requirements for such promotions.

The ordinance, which was passed by an 8-to-3 margin, is considered "veto proof" as it has enough votes to overturn a rejection by San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsome, an opponent of the legislation.

It is currently scheduled to go into effect in December 2011 and will only allow restaurants like McDonalds or Burger King to offer toys in kids' meals if they contain fewer than 600 total calories (including the drink) and if fat makes up less than 35-percent of the meal's caloric content.

"Our children are sick. Rates of obesity in San Francisco are disturbingly high, especially among children of color," Supervisor Eric Mar, a sponsor of the measure, told Lisa Baertlein of Reuters on Tuesday. "This is a challenge to the restaurant industry to think about children's health first and join the wide range of local restaurants that have already made this commitment."

"We're part of a movement that is moving forward an agenda of food justice," he added in comments made to Sharon Bernstein of the Los Angeles Times. "From San Francisco to New York City, the epidemic of childhood obesity in this country is making our kids sick, particularly kids from low income neighborhoods, at an alarming rate. It's a survival issue and a day-to-day issue."

In a statement released following the passing of the ordinance, McDonald's spokeswoman Danya Proud said that the popular fast food restaurant was "extremely disappointed" with the decision.

"It's not what our customers want, nor is it something they asked for," Proud added. "Getting a toy with a kid's meal is just one part of a fun, family experience at McDonald's."

According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) statistics, approximately 15-percent of American kids are considered overweight or obese. That number tops 30-percent in some states, according to Baertlein, and as a result, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CPSI) is reportedly preparing a lawsuit against McDonald's seeking an end to Happy Meal-related toy promotions.


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