San Francisco Weighs Fast Food Toy Ban

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Anti-obesity activists are hoping that the city of San Francisco will ban toys as giveaways by fast food restaurants failing to meet nutritional guidelines. Under proposed legislation, restaurant meals that come with toys would also have to include a half-cup of fruit and three-quarters of a cup of vegetables.

Further, a fast food restaurant would be prohibited from giving toys or other incentives with menu items that did not meet guidelines for calories, fat and sodium. For example, a single menu item could not exceed 200 calories, derive more than 35% of its calories from fat, or contain more than 480 milligrams of sodium.

This presents a significant problem for most fast food restaurants, because a typical hamburger served at a restaurant such as McDonald’s (a target for its popular co-branded Happy Meals for kids), Burger King, or Jack in the Box weighs in at a minimum of 250 calories and contains over 500 milligrams of sodium.[more]

City Supervisor Eric Mar, who sponsored the legislation, tells SFGate.com, “Our legislation will encourage restaurants that offer unhealthy meals marketed toward children and youth to offer healthier food options with incentive items or toys. It will help protect the public’s health, reduce costs to our health care system and promote healthier eating habits.”

Not surprisingly, fast food restaurants are voicing their opposition. Daniel Conway, public affairs director for the California Restaurant Association, says, “Toy bans are only proven to disappoint kids, frustrate parents and generate headlines for ambitious politicians. The Board of Supervisors needs to stop gorging on political gimmicks and instead focus on creating jobs in their city.”

A similar law went into effect on August 9, but it only applies to unincorporated areas in Santa Clara County. The county was the first local government in the U.S. to adopt a law of this type.

The proposed San Francisco law comes on the heels of a new report from the Centers for Disease Control indicating that nearly 27 percent of the American population is obese, and that obesity rates are rising faster than expected. Medical costs for obesity are estimated to be as high as $147 billion a year.

So will fast food diners in the Bay Area soon be binging, “I Left My Toy in San Francisco”? Stay tuned.

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