November 14, 2010

SF Mayor Hopes To Keep Toys In Happy Meals

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom is planning to veto a new city law that would put an end to toys being given away as part of a children's meal at restaurants.

The law will require that restaurant kids' meals meet certain nutritional standards before they would be allowed to give away toys. 

"We must continue pursuing real strategies against childhood obesity, but this legislation takes an intrusive and ineffective approach. Parents, not politicians, should decide what their children eat, especially when it comes to spending their own money," Newsom, who was elected California's lieutenant governor on November 2, said in a statement.

The law has gotten national attention and comes as public health officials, parents and other groups have grown frustrated with what they say are weak anti-obesity efforts on the part of the restaurant industry.

San Francisco's Board of Supervision passed the legislation earlier this week with a supermajority vote of 8 to 3.

"We expect the same 8 to 3 vote to override Mayor Newsom's proposed veto," Eric Mar told Reuters. Mar is the supervisor who sponsored the legislation.

Mar said he supports Newsom's commitment to healthy eating and active living in San Francisco, but was surprised the mayor intends to veto the new law.

"As a city, we need to do more," Mar told Reuters. "The dollars spent by the fast food industry far outnumber any resources that we as a city could spend on outreach and education."

The fast food industry has recently been praised for allowing parents to swap milk for soda and apples for French fries in kids' meals.  However, new research shows that the industry has been stepping up its efforts to market itself towards children and toddlers.

Researchers at the Yale University Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity in Connecticut found that the fast-food industry spent over $4.2 billion in 2009 on marketing and advertising on television, the Internet, social media sites and mobile applications.

The researchers said preschoolers see 21 percent more fast-food ads on television than they saw in 2003.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says two-thirds of American adults and 15 percent of children are overweight or obese.  The childhood obesity rate in some states is above 30 percent.


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