Proposal to ban toys in unhealthy kid's meals

March 23, 2010 11:40:52 AM PDT
A Santa Clara County lawmaker will introduce legislation to stop restaurants from handing out toys with fast food menu items geared toward children.

The proposed legislation would ban toy giveaways at restaurants only in Santa Clara County.

Some say toys are what puts the happy in a Happy Meal, like at McDonalds.

"I'm sorry but when you go for a Happy Meal for a child -- we go for the prize, because that's what makes the Happy Meal a happy meal," said San Jose resident Barbara Park.

But Santa Clara County Board of Supervisor Ken Yeager says these types of fast food meals don't make for a happy, healthy waistline.

"One in three kids are overweight or are obese, and we're finding out more and more that if you're obese as a child, you're going to have health problems your entire life," said Yeager.

In an effort to combat the nation's epidemic of childhood obesity, Supervisor Yeager is proposing Santa Clara County create an ordinance regulating fast food restaurants' ability to offer toys or other incentives with kids' meals.

"Ten out of 12 meals that are associated with the promotional toys are the high-caloric, high-fat, high-sodium meals," said Yeager.

A Federal Trade Commission study estimates that restaurants sold more than a billion meals accompanied by toys to children under 12. If passed, regulation could range from an outright ban on toys -- to restricting them being given out only with healthy meals. Some disagree with such restrictions, saying adults should be able to make the food choices how they see fit and believe the fat part isn't solely to blame on the fast food.

"I think they get fat when they eat at home. That starts at home, I raised five boys and I have grandchildren and that starts at home. They eat what is in the refrigerator, they eat what parents buy at grocery store," said San Jose resident Jacqueline Busch.

Many restaurants now offer healthier choices from juice, to apple slices, but in the end, the draw is really the Star Wars figures and toy cars and parents believe they can monitor that intake.

"It's a treat. You do good -- let's go to Burger King," said Busch.

Supervisor Yeager expects such a public health ordinance banning fast-food toy incentives could draw a challenge from the California Restaurant Association, but that it would legally fall under the health and safety codes.

If it is passed, this would be the first such legislation in the nation.

The board votes on the proposed ordinance next month.


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