Happy Meals No More in San Francisco

David Cassuto

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors has voted to prohibit Happy Meals (and their ilk) from having toys until the nutritional content is improved.  The mayor has promised to veto it but the 8-3 margin of passage is veto-proof.  Some skinny:

“Under the proposal, restaurants would be barred from giving away the popular toys unless the meals contain fewer than 600 calories and fewer than 640 milligrams of sodium. In addition, no more than 34 percent of the calories could be derived from fat (less than 10 percent from saturated fat), except for fat found in nuts, seeds, eggs or low-fat cheese. In terms of beverages, fewer than 35 percent of the total calories could come from fat, and fewer than 10 percent from added sweeteners.

And then there are the items that San Francisco’s lawmakers say must be included in the meals: at least a half-cup of fruit and three-quarters a cup of vegetables, except for breakfast meals. Those only must contain a half-cup or more of fruit or vegetables.”   

McDonald’s lobbied hard against the ban, claiming that their menu was very nutritious, pointing to the peeled apples and white meat McNuggets (of course, “meat” is relative).  But Supervisor Eric Mar pointed to a study by  Yale University’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity which:
examined 12 popular restaurant chains and found only 12 out of more than 3,000 kids’ meal combinations met the nutritional guidelines for preschool-aged kids.

The study said the fast food industry spent $4.2 billion on advertising in 2009 and found that 40 percent of preschool-aged children ask to go to McDonald’s on a weekly basis, and 15 percent ask on a daily basis. Also, 84 percent of parents say they’ve taken their children to eat fast food at least once in the past week.

Food for thought.  Kudos to the SF Supes.  The next step would be for a city to directly take on fast food (and other big food) for its damage to nonhumans and the environment as well.

4 Responses

  1. I suspect the toys may contain more nutrition than the food.

  2. Maybe they just need to change their concept of “toy” to include a variety of fun coronary stents (“collect ’em all!”).

  3. I like SF’s style. Just a question (from a 2L with 1 semester of Con Law under his belt). Could McDonalds bring some kind of interstate commerce clause action? Is this coercive?

    I am going to use some Professor Stein terminology here, but I think that it is funny how SF is trying to guide McDonalds with the ‘CARROT’ instead of a ‘stick.’

    Side note: with fad diets, the popularity of wraps and chicken ceasar salads, fashionable vegans and vegetarians, sincere vegans and vegetarians, and all the info about how bad fast food is, I cant believe fast food chains still have HUGE lines in their drive-thru’s.

  4. Interesting question, Doug but no, there’s no CC problem. SF can ban toys in food the same way other cities can regulate alcohol sales or other things.

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