A law in San Francisco passed yesterday banning toys in most McDonald’s Happy Meals. In order for McDonald’s to offer kids a toy with their Happy Meal, under the new ordinance, the meal must first meet certain nutritional guidelines. The ordinance is scheduled to take effect in December 2011.
Meals that qualify must have:
-Less than 600 calories
-Less than 35% of the calories come from fat
-Less than 640 milligrams of sodium
-A fruit or vegetable
The vote passed through San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors with an overwhelming majority of 8 to 3. While these standards don’t by any means truly deem a meal healthy, I would have undoubtedly voted yes if I were a member on that board.
Growing up as a vegetarian with a health conscious mom, god forbid we ever went to McDonalds. But I do remember occasionally trying to persuade my mom to stop off and buy me the junky kiddy meals so I could get the toys I saw other kids playing with. Even more vividly, I remember begging my mom to purchase sugary cereals so I could see what secret prize was hidden inside the box like I believed every other kid got to do. Of course my mom would always firmly refuse on both accounts. But if the toys marketed towards kids weren’t in junk food to begin with, maybe I wouldn’t have been so persistent in nagging my mom.
Who knows if the ban will actually help childhood obesity or significantly impact children’s choices. My guess is that the kinds of parents that feed their kids fast food aren’t going to stop buying from McDonald’s just because the toys have been taken away from many of the Happy Meals. But maybe this will at least give McDonald’s somewhat of an incentive to start upping the nutritional value of their meals. If any monumental changes were to be seen, I’d think that toys would have to be banned from all junk food marketed towards kids. Either way, it’s certainly not a step in the wrong direction and doesn’t seem to hurt anybody…well, excluding McDonald’s, but do we really want to help McDonald’s anyway?
What are your thoughts on banning toys in McDonald’s Happy Meals or in junk food in general?