While the Center for Science in the Public Interest hasn’t yet made good on its threat to sue McDonald’s for continuing to put toys in their Happy Meals, the city of San Francisco is considering a law that could have your children asking “where’s my toy?” the next time you head to the Golden Arches and other fast food joints.
The proposed law would forbid restaurants in San Francisco from using “incentive items” — toys, trading cards, admission tickets — for meals or menu items that have:
* More than 200 calories for a single item or more than 600 calories for a meal.
* More than 480 milligrams of sodium for a single item or 640 milligrams for a meal. (A typical fast-food hamburger has 520 milligrams of sodium.)
* More than 35% of its calories derived from fat, unless the fat is contained in nuts, seeds or nut butters, or from a packaged egg or packaged low-fat or reduced-fat cheese.
* More than 10% of its calories derived from saturated fats, with the exception of nuts, seeds, packaged eggs or packaged low-fat or reduced-fat cheese.
* More than 0.5 grams of trans fat.
This would rule out all McDonald’s Happy Meals containing hamburgers, cheeseburgers, small french fries; that leaves only some Chicken McNugget Happy Meals that come with Apple Dippers.
But wait — there’s more:
* Meals must include at least a half-cup of fruit and three-quarters of a cup of vegetables.
* A beverage may not have more than 35 percent of its calories fat-based or more than 10 percent of its calories sugar-based.
The sponsors of the bill say they aren’t trying to ban fast food or take away toys from kids. They just want to make sure that if you’re marketing a product to children it’s not doing harm.
“Our legislation will encourage restaurants that offer unhealthy meals marketed toward children and youth to offer healthier food options with incentive items or toys,” says the bill’s chief sponsor. “It will help protect the public’s health, reduce costs to our health care system and promote healthier eating habits.”
On the other side, the California Restaurant Association isn’t thrilled about the proposed law. Says a rep from the group:
The San Francisco Board of Supervisors seems to have an insatiable appetite for punishing the restaurant industry… Toy bans are only proven to disappoint kids, frustrate parents and generate headlines for ambitious politicians.
Earlier this year, nearby Santa Clara County approved a similar law, which went into effect earlier this week.
However, unlike the San Francisco proposal, which covers all restaurants in the city, the Santa Clara legislation only covers the small number of fast food joints in unincorporated areas of the county.