San Francisco ‘Happy Meal’ Ban: Misguided or On The Money?

San Francisco bans Happy Meal toys

This story really took me by surprise on Wednesday when I read it.  To think that a city the size of San Francisco would make this kind of sweeping ban in the name of “nutrition” almost seemed unfair to the fast food chains like McDonalds and Burger King and Wendys…almost.

Turns out that the reason they were “banning” the Happy Meal was primarily because the city has now set-up nutritional standards for any meals that come with a toy and it turns out McDonalds failed to live-up to these standards.

Specifically…

The measure will make San Francisco the first major city in the United States to forbid restaurants from offering a free toy with meals that contain more than set levels of calories, sugar and fat.  Under the ordinance, scheduled to take effect in December 2011, restaurants may include a toy with a meal if the food and drink combined contain fewer than 600 calories, and if less than 35 percent of the calories come from fat.

I gotta be honest here…I’m a little on the fence with this one (and not for the reasons you may think).

It’s not because I want all children scarfing down burgers and fries on a daily basis because that’s simply not the case.  I guess my concern is about where they decided to make this health food “stand” of theirs.

Are all elementary schools and high schools in the San Francisco area serving ONLY food that meets these exact same standards?  Probably not…and I would think the government would be better off trying to fix what’s wrong from within their own system than going after an outside source in some kind of “good food crusade”.

My son is a fussy eater, but after watching Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution with Sunshine earlier this year, there’s nothing I’d rather see in my child’s school (when he ends up going) than salads and chicken breasts instead of greasy pizza, burgers, and fries every day.

This is where the battle should begin.

Having said that, I’m certainly not opposed to this ban. Any of the fast food chains that include toys with their child portions can be “un-banned” by doing whatever they can to ensure the meals end up meeting San Francisco’s nutritional standards, which is something McDonalds is already trying to do with the city.

My fear, though, is that these restaurants will find a way around the ban…maybe by selling the toys separately so they don’t end up falling under the nutritional requirements.  It would be a pretty crummy way to get around it, but I can see it happening if an agreement isn’t reached by December 2011.

Either way, kudos to San Francisco for at least taking a stand like this.  I just hope that other cities look at them as being an example and start following suit…but look at their own school system instead of trying to govern what restaurants offer on their kids’ menu, which at the end of the day is a choice that REALLY needs to be handled by the parents.

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One thought on “San Francisco ‘Happy Meal’ Ban: Misguided or On The Money?

  1. My view that any victory should be applauded. I still don’t think it’s going to make that much of a difference long-term though. Parents are still going to buy that crap for their kids whether it comes with a toy or not.

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