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San Francisco Bans Toys In Fast Food Kids Meals

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS / AP) ― San Francisco became the first major American city Tuesday to prohibit fast-food restaurants from including toys with children’s meals that don’t meet nutritional guidelines after the city’s Board of Supervisors voted 8-3 in favor of the measure.

KCBS’ Barbara Taylor Reports:

It was enough votes to survive a veto threat made by Mayor Gavin Newsom after the measure had passed on a preliminary vote by the board last week.

The ordinance, which would go into effect in December of next year, prohibits toy giveaways in fast-food children’s meals that have more than 640 milligrams of sodium, 600 calories or 35 percent of their calories from fat. The law also would limit saturated fats and trans fats and require fruits or vegetables to be served with each meal with a toy.

“Our effort is really to work with the restaurants and the fast-food industry to create healthier choices,” said Supervisor Eric Mar, the measure’s chief sponsor. “What our kids are eating is making them sick, and a lot of it is fast food.”

The legislation is a big victory for activists and public health advocates who have charged food marketers with being complicit in the country’s growing childhood obesity rates. They hope other cities and counties nationwide will follow their lead.

“This will be a sign to the fast-food industry that it’s time to phase out its predatory marketing to children at large,” said Deborah Lapidus, a senior organizer with Boston-based Corporate Accountability International, a watchdog group that supported the legislation.

A similar ordinance has already been approved in Santa Clara County, where it affected about a dozen restaurants.

The industry, which favors self-regulation, said there is no evidence that San Francisco’s law will halt the expanse of children’s waistlines and the diseases associated with obesity, such as hypertension, diabetes and heart disease.

McDonald’s and Burger King Corp. are among 17 major food and beverage marketers who have signed on to the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative, a self-regulation effort run by the Council of Better Business Bureaus.

McDonald’s said its meals advertised to children meet government nutritional standards, limiting total calories to 600 per meal and capping fats and sugars. The company also agreed to curtail advertising in schools and promote healthy lifestyles in all marketing efforts directed at children.

“McDonald’s remains committed to responsible marketing practices, including advertising and promotional campaigns for our youngest customers,” McDonald’s senior vice president for marketing, Neil Golden, said in a statement to the media.

McDonald’s sent several senior executives and others to San Francisco to oppose the measure in person.

As it was being drafted, amended and discussed over several months, Corporate Accountability ran a local newspaper advertisement signed by physicians, community activists and small restaurants that called on Board of Supervisors swing voter Bevan Dufty to support the measure.

Dufty eventually did so, saying San Francisco should not wait for the federal government to act and should serve as an example to other cities.

“I don’t care how much they say, ‘It’s San Francisco, they’re whacked out there, it doesn’t matter,’ the reality is they’re taking notice,” Dufty said.

Fast-food restaurants spent $161 million advertising to children under 12 and an estimated $360 million on toys distributed with their meals in 2006, according to a 2008 Federal Trade Commission report.

Marlene Schwartz, deputy director of Yale University’s Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity, said fast-food advertising aimed at children has increased since self-regulation efforts began.

“They’re only really promoting it halfheartedly,” said Schwartz of healthier food options. San Francisco’s law “is making the restaurants practice what they preach.”

The lure of such items is all too familiar to parents like Carmen Sanchez, who was at a San Francisco McDonald’s on a recent evening and said she sometimes hears children beg for Happy Meals.

“If the babies don’t get what they want, then they won’t stop crying,” Sanchez said.

(© 2010 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

  • JustParentAlready

    Idiot San Francisco supervisors. Idiot parents. When was the last time a 4-year old opened up their piggy bank, got on their tricycle and rode over to their favorite fast food restaurant and ordered a “Happy Meal” all by themselves? Toys don’t make kids fat. Lazy parents who can’t raise their children to not have meltdown every time they don’t get everything they want are what is making their spoiled crybaby children fat. Just parent already. And the idiot San Francisco supervisors who spout that San Francisco is all about freedoms and choices except for when you disagree with their position. Smoking pot around children at the Giants’ parade is alright with them, but toys in a fast food meal, now THAT’S going too far.

  • HappyMeal

    They ban happy meals yet they allow girls to get abortion without parents’ consent. That’s the logic of the left. Well actually the utter lack of logic and principles

  • ShutUp

    San Francisco just took the happy out of the happy meal. Kids are still going to eat the burger with fries and drink the coke but now they wont get the toy. Absurd…

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