McDonald’s Outsmarts San Francisco On Happy Meal Toy Ban

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — McDonald’s restaurants in San Francisco have now found a way to get around a city law that takes effect on Thursday that bans free toy giveaways with Happy Meals.

McDonald’s 19 locations in the city will allow customers to request that the toys be added to their Happy Meals for a separate charge of only 10 cents.

“While we will fully comply with this law, we also have a responsibility to give our customers what they want. Parents have told us they’d still like the option of purchasing a toy separately for their child when they buy them a Happy Meal,” Danya Proud, a spokesperson for McDonald’s USA, said in a statement sent to CBS San Francisco.

San Francisco last year became the first major U.S. city to prohibit fast-food restaurants from including toys with children’s meals that don’t meet certain nutritional guidelines.

“While McDonald’s has made positive changes to the Happy Meal that customers approve of, the ordinance includes very strict requirements that the new Happy Meals don’t meet,” Proud told CBS SF.

KCBS’ Margie Shafer Reports:

The company said the dime toy charge complies with the “letter of the law,” because it makes the toy a separate purchase from that of the Happy Meal.

The money from the toy sales will all be donated to the Ronald McDonald House children’s charity.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All rights reserved.)

  • Ann Mason

    This law is a simplistic answer to a complicated problem. It makes no difference that fast food restaurants have found a loophole. Our society still has the problem of poor food choices. It’s an addiction, and it will have to be addressed individually by each person before there’s any change.

    • Paul Sprague

      How true and the way it should be. When government starts telling you what you can and can’t eat, your freedom begins to erode.

      • SamSkwirl

        You are one smart cookie. :-)

    • tn

      In a twisted way, it keeps the doctors, healthcare and pharmaceutical business perpetually operating to find “cures” or “relief” from the bad effects of what fast food does to a body. It also raises your medical insurance premiums. Yes, yours.

  • Michael Greenlee

    Happy meals are supposed to make kids happy. Some people think McDonald’s does too good a job, because those fries and cheese burger are damn good and wash it down with an ice cold soda, heaven. So why not include the toy… kids love little surprises. As long as they don’t eat happy meals everyday and get plenty of exercise, they are good to go. McDonald’s rocks!

    • SamSkwirl

      Exactly, the government should control the amount of activity you do compared to the calories you eat… that way they can charge more for taxes to do as stated.
      (This is called sarcasm)

  • Kendra Wallace

    It’s too bad all the effort was focused on how to get around the law, rather than how to make kids meals more nutritious.

    • person

      There should be no efforts wasted at all! What kids eat is the parent’s responsibility! The parents are buying the happy meals, not the kids. Although I’m not a fan of McDonalds, I will say that they should not be punished for stupid and lazy parents.

    • Michael Z. Williamson

      It’s too bad you, and some of the parents, assume that McDogfood’s is “diet” rather than “treat.”

    • Martin

      At least where I live, and it’s not SF, McD’s automatically include a packet of apple wedges in addition to whatever other side was ordered. It’s not a perfect solution, but at some point parents also need to stand up to their kids. For example, mine always want a soda for their drink, but 9 out 10 times I select white milk for them, amid mild protests. I’m not saying I’m perfect, just giving an example of how it’s the parents who should be making the right decisions and not restaurant owners who should be forced to sell what a small group of busy-bodies wants them to sell.

    • AnomieDog

      Exactly. These companies are responsible for the wellbeing of our children. We parents are way too busy to monitor what foods we provide to our kids. (Sarcasm)… I think it is great they found a loophole and that the additional money will be going to charity. Maybe they should make a fine against the parents that let their children eat unhealthy 7 days a week. Heck, even 3 or 4 days a week. Proper nutrition starts at home people.

    • berserkr


  • Russell Benson

    Both of my kids liked McD’s early on and now eat there on rare occassions as I do. It’s not good tasting food so I really don’t see the big deal about offering toys, etc. Let people make up their own minds. Most kids will not like McD’s as they get older.

  • guest

    I grew up eating McD’s and am not overweight. I don’t see why McD’s should be held responsible for parents’ lack of discipline or parenting. I guess blaming others is just the american way.

    • Jason Wilkins

      I grew up eating McDonalds at least once a week; sometimes more,, and I am not one bit over weight or unhealthy now. Leave it to the parents what their children eat. Now as far as school lunches where the parent isn’t there, they should be limited to healthy food.

    • Frank

      Not the American way but certainly the California way

  • jon anthony

    “While we will fully comply with this law, we also have a responsibility to give our customers what they want….”

    Well, I can’t speak autonomously, but I prefer a Big Mac with no salt, fresh fries, with no salt, and a baby oil reacharound. McDonalds still feel obligated to comply with my demands? If so, I’m moving to Cali…yo

  • GerstFrau

    Way to go McDonalds!! I will never live in San Francisco because it is no longer free. I am so sick of government sticking their noses into every little aspect of our lives, and San Francisco is the absolute worst. People should really boycott that whole town. I was so irritated when I first heard about this law, so I am glad McDonalds stood up for those of us who want to keep our right to make our own decisions. Yes, we need to eat healthier. But the government taking away our personal liberties is not the way to get this done.

  • Curtis

    I was wondering if this could effect Cracker Jacks???

    • Jason Wilkins

      Or cereal…

  • Martin


  • Debbie

    II will tell you what the problem is with child obesity. It’s all those video and computer games that are out now. Kids don’t go out and play and get exercise like when we were growing up. They sit on their butts and play games and eat junk food. Don’t blame it on McDonald’s, blame the parents for buying junk food for the kids, blame the parents for letting their kids sit around all day and play video games.

    • Collegegirl

      You almost have it Debbie. No it’s not video games at all, just like it’s not McCdonalds. It’s parental responsibility and the responsibility of the child as well which comes from decent parenting and good role modeling. I love to eat McCdonalds and play video games and I always have and I have a very healthy weight. It’s because I know I can do the things I enjoy as long as I don’t go overboard. A value I learned from my parents. Responsibility and moderation are important things to learn.

  • OCWise

    This sucks. Kids of ignorant parents are still going to get fat with or without the toy. You might as well take the Big Mac away while your at it. Sacto is the slimiest, dirtiest city in California hands down.

  • kl

    Good for McDs. I agree with others, what’s next only cereal that has a certain amount of fiber and protein, no prizes in cereal, no sweetened cereal, or what about restaurants that has part of a kids menu the kids get a little ice cream or pudding? This doesn’t change anything at all. To me, it’s the same as stupid Red Ribbon Week; oh yeah, let’s have elementary kids tie red ribbons to school fences so that they won’t do drugs. About 10 years ago when I was teaching our PTA gave out pledge sheets for the kids to sign promising to never do drugs. I taught 5th grade, practically every kid said I’m not signing this, I can’t promise that when I’m older I won’t want to try something & how can they make us sign it and if I sign it it won’t mean anything…. these were 10 year olds in Richmond.

  • angelmyst

    I couldn’t agree with you more! As a parent myself I find it extremely disturbing that parents are increasingly demanding the government pass legislation to control what their children might be exposed to be it in public, online and now even in fast food restaurants, . These are parenting issues, that should be handled within individual families and their homes, issues that the government should not even be allowed to enact legislation over.

    Do the parents demanding these laws realize that by doing this they are giving up more and more of their rights as parents to determine how their children are raised?

  • kellybed

    I commend McDonald’s for this innovative solution. What a great way to generate funds for an awesome charity like Ronald McDonald House while providing families with the opportunity to choose the traditional Happy Meal toy.

  • ep tor

    They should also pass a bylaw disallowing those free coffee promotions and $1 drinks in the summer. And how about a legal limit on how many sugars are allowed in coffee – no more double double coffees. Adults are getting too fat and becoming a burden to our health care system.

    Of course, they should be allowed to sell the extra packet of sugar separately and make a donation to a diabetic prevention group.

    But why not pass a stupidity bylaw to prevent imbeciles from running for office.

  • Anna

    if you were not so lazy to excersie you would not be fat

  • berserkr

    How about something they can’t get around. Pass an ordinance that taxes any meals or food items marketed primarily to children under 12, that do not meet these nutritional requirements at a rate of 100%. The revenue raised could be used to fund programs to fight childhood obesity, or to pay for treatment of health problems of those who do not have insurance. Hiow many people would be willing to shell out $10.00, for a $5.00 happy meal.

  • Dennis Prager’s War on Drugs

    […] right. The people who now wish to ban soft drinks, McDonald's and guns, are the same (progressive) folks who gave us that ridiculous 18th […]

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