Home > Uncategorized > Happy Meal Law: No Toys with Food in Santa Clara

Happy Meal Law: No Toys with Food in Santa Clara

County officials in Silicon Valley trying to curb childhood obesity voted Tuesday to ban restaurants from giving away toys and other freebies that often come with high-calorie meals aimed at kids.

The ordinance is largely symbolic as it would only cover unincorporated areas of Santa Clara County, meaning only about a dozen fast-food outlets and several other family-owned restaurants would be affected.

But its chief sponsor says it’s still important because it paves the way for other areas to act, may spur action by fast-food chains to offer healthier choices and can help parents by taking away a child’s incentive for wanting less healthy food.

“This ordinance does not attack toys. Obviously, toys, in and of themselves, do not make children obese,” said county Supervisor Ken Yeager, who pushed for the ban. “But it is unfair to parents and children to use toys to capture the tastes of children when they are young to get them hooked on eating high-sugar, high-fat foods early in life.”

The ban, which faces a final vote next month, would prohibit restaurants from giving away an incentive item, like a toy, with a meal that contains more than 485 calories, more than 600 milligrams of sodium and excessive amounts of fat and sugars.

Efforts to trim high calorie food from children’s plates have been made all over the nation, most recently in a campaign led by first lady Michelle Obama. One in three American children is overweight or obese.

County supervisors said restaurants encourage children to choose specific menu items by linking them with free toys and other incentives. The Federal Trade Commission estimated that about $360 million was spent in 2006 on toys that were included in kids’ meals.

A 2008 study by the Center for Science in the Public Interest showed that 10 out of 12 meals that came with toys exceeded the recommended caloric limits for children, Yeager said.

The California Restaurant Association lobbied against the ordinance saying it was misguided and another example of government overreaching. The organization placed ads in local newspapers against the ordinance and conducted a poll they said showed that an overwhelmingly number of county residents opposed such a measure.

In other McDonald’s news: here and here.

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