San Francisco’s board of supervisors is expected to formally approve a ban on most of McDonald’s Happy Meals in current form during a meeting Tuesday.
The move to turn Happy Meals into healthy meals was proposed because some in the northern California city felt that McDonald’s offers toys to entice kids to buy meals that don’t meet nutritional criteria.
The board already approved the ban during a preliminary vote last week.
San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom has indicated he would veto the ordinance, but the board has enough votes — eight out of 11 — to override the veto, said San Francisco Supervisor Eric Mar who initiated the proposal
Under the proposal, McDonald’s and other restaurants would have until December 2011 to improve their meals’ nutrition with fruits and vegetables — if the chains want to keep offering Captain America figurines or toys tied with latest films.
The proposed ordinance is part of a “food justice movement” and is designed to address how about 50 of the city’s restaurants use giveaway toys to sell fast food whose nutritional content is being challenged by the city.
Officials said they hope their measure, the first of its kind for a large city, would encourage similar standards across the country. The San Francisco proposal was modeled after a similar law for unincorporated Santa Clara County, California,
Mar said the ordinance would be “a tremendous victory” in fighting childhood obesity. His fifth-grade daughter is in the 6-to-11 age group in which rates of obesity have quadrupled the past 30 years — coinciding with the lifespan of the Happy Meal, he said.
“I do believe that toys and other incentives attached to foods that are high in sugar, fat and calories are a major reason for the alarming rise for childhood obesity in this country,” Mar said last week. “This is a very modest ordinance that is an incentive for the industry to take responsibility for healthier choices for children and parents.”
McDonald’s spokeswoman Danya Proud has said the company was “extremely disappointed with the decision.”
“It’s not what our customers want, nor is it something they asked for. Public opinion continues to be overwhelmingly against this misguided legislation,” Proud said in a statement. “Parents tell us it’s their right and responsibility — not the government’s – to make their own decisions and to choose what’s right for their children.
“We are extremely proud of our Happy Meals which give our youngest guests wholesome food and toys of the highest quality. Getting a toy with a kid’s meal is just one part of a fun, family experience at McDonald’s,” Proud said.
Under the proposal, the food and beverage would have to contain fewer than 600 calories, and less than 35 percent of total calories would come from fat.
The meal would also have to contain 0.5 cups of fruit and 0.75 cups of vegetables and offer less than 640 mg of sodium and less than 0.5 mg of trans fat. Breakfast would have the option of offering 0.5 cups of fruit or vegetables.
City officials expect a legal challenge from McDonald’s once the ordinance is approved.
“They hired fancy lawyers for this and flew them out here to meet with us and basically to strong-arm us into not doing this,” Linshao Chin, legislative assistant to Mar, said. She said McDonald’s attorneys argued corporate First Amendment rights.
McDonald’s declined to respond to Chin’s comments.
McDonald’s, Burger King and Subway are among the restaurants that offer such toys or other incentives in San Francisco, but McDonald’s was described by city officials as taking the lead in opposing the ordinance.
The California Restaurant Association also objected to the ordinance because, said spokesman Daniel Conway, “it’s insulting to parents and it’s more generating headlines than trimming waist lines.”
CNN’s Michael Martinez contributed to this report.
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