No More Toys in Children's Fast Food Meals to Help Fight Obesity

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An ordinance in Santa Clara County was just passed by a 3-2 vote to ban toys in children’s meals at fast food chains. This is a first of its kind in the nation. The target is the fast-food industry and marketing unhealthful food to children and fueling an epidemic of obesity among the young.

"This ordinance breaks the link between unhealthy food and prizes," said the law's author, Supervisor Ken Yeager. "Obviously, toys in and of themselves do not make children obese. But it is unfair to parents and children to use toys to capture the tastes of children when they are young and get them hooked on eating high-sugar, high-fat foods early in life."

Representatives for the California Restaurant Association, whose members include chains that opposed the ordinance, will have 90 days to offer an alternative to the legislation. Violations under the version the board approved Tuesday would be punishable by fines of as much as $1,000 for each meal sold with a toy.

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Yeager said he hopes the law will inspire cities and counties across the country to follow suit like "ripples that create a wave."

The law is quite simple. It bans toys giveaways in children's meals that contain more than 485 calories, derive more than 35 percent of their calories from fat or 10 percent from added sweeteners, or have more than 600 mg of sodium. The totals are based on children's health standards set by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

At least one parent, interviewed at a Burger King did not agree with the ordinance. "I don't need politicians to tell me what I can and can't buy for my kid," said Chris Mackey, who bought his daughter, Cattie, a Kids Meal that included an "Iron Man 2" action figure. "We don't come in here every day, and I don't associate giving my daughter a toy with giving her bad food. This is a private matter between me and my child."

Walt Riker, a spokesman for McDonald’s, said it was disappointed by the board’s action, adding that “our Happy Meals provide many of the important nutrients that children need, including zinc, iron and calcium.”

For now, Santa Clara County will do everything it can to help fight against child obesity including banning toys to lure children into eating high caloric meals.

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