San Francisco’s already done it, and now New York may follow suit. New York City Councilman Leroy Comrie thinks the city should consider a ban on “Happy Meals” and similar fast food promotions aimed at kids unless those meals meet certain nutritional standards.
Comrie has fought the battle of the bulge himself.
“As you know, and I’m an example, nearly one-third of all children in New York City and throughout the United States are either overweight or obese,” Comrie said.
Comrie planned to introduce his own bill Wednesday that would essentially rewrite what could currently be considered a “Happy Meal.” The bill would require establishments that offer toys with food make sure the meals are 500 calories or less and have low fat and low sodium totals.
Penalties would be steep: between $200 to $2,500 for repeat restaurant offenders who use toys to sell unhealthy meals.
A California mother and The Center for Science in the Public Interest have sued McDonald’s Corp. trying to get the fast-food chain to stop using toys to market meals to young children.
The lawsuit was filed in California Superior Court in San Francisco on Wednesday morning by the center and Monet Parham.
They claim McDonald‘s decision to markets its meals directly to young children violates several consumer protection laws because it exploits a child’s vulnerability.
A statement on the center‘s website says McDonald’s is using toys to “bait” kids, and Parham blames McDonald’s for making it hard to tell her child “no”:
“I am concerned about the health of my children and feel that McDonald’s should be a very limited part of their diet and their childhood experience,” Parham said. “But as other busy, working moms and dads know, we have to say ‘no’ to our young children so many times, and McDonald’s makes that so much harder to do. I object to the fact that McDonald’s is getting into my kids’ heads without my permission and actually changing what my kids want to eat.”
This is just stupid. God forbid you may have to say ‘no’ to your child. What’s next? Are we going to ban supermarkets from selling candy and other treats because a kid may ask their parent to buy it?
While all of the media buzz about San Francisco’s assault on fast food restaurants has been focused on toys found in kids’ meals, the Board of Supervisors last week decided to take a shot at regulating “breakfast items” marketed to adults, too.
According to a Sept. 27 amendment to the city’s proposed Happy Meal toy ban ordinance, “a new category of items — breakfast items — are required to contain 0.5 cups of fruit. A Meal must now also contain whole grains where bread is part of the offering.”
The amendment defines “Whole grains” as “Bread, such as a hamburger bun or other sandwhich, that is part of a Meal must be made with at least 50 percent whole wheat.”
San Francisco is about to crack down on the toys that are included in Happy Meals.
City leaders will hold a public hearing today on a proposed law that would make it illegal for kids’ meals to come with prizes.
Critics say it’s a case of food police going out of control. But supporters argue that it’s a case of watching out for the common good.
“We believe strongly that it is the right of parents to decide what children eat,” said Karen Wells, vice president of nutrition and menu strategy for McDonalds USA, in an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle.
The toy ban would only apply to meals that exceed limits the city set on calories, fat, salt and sugar.
Supervisor Eric Mar is the chief sponsor of the legislation. He accused fast-food restaurants of using the toys to lure children.
“As a parent, it’s not just parental choice that decides what meals to serve your children,” Mar told UPI. “There’s the heavy marketing by an industry that connects food with a toy, and that can be a powerful influence. It’s the responsibility of the industry to promote healthy choices.”
A spokesman for the California Restaurant Association said the proposed law could vioalte free speech rights.