San Francisco Bans the Happy Meal


San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors passed a new law Tuesday that effectively limits the ability of restaurants to give away free toys with unhealthy kids meals, a practice that has been popularized by McDonald’s and its Happy Meals.

The Los Angeles Times reports that restaurants will now only be able to give out toys to kids with meals that contain less than 600 calories, only 35% of which can come from fat. Additionally, restaurants will have to provide fruits and veggies with the meal.

The new law was passed by an 8-3 vote, which is a margin large enough that it can’t be vetoed by the city’s mayor. As a result, the law will automatically take effect Dec. 1.

This makes San Francisco the first major metropolitan area in the country to ban the practice of giving out toys with kids meals, although earlier this year, Santa Clara County, Calif., passed a similar measure. In both cases, the motivation has been to crack down on toy giveaways that encourage children to eat unhealthy meals.

These initiatives are part of a larger movement to promote healthier eating habits for children nationwide. Schools have banned processed foods and cut back on sugary drinks like Pepsi. Meanwhile, the White House has pushed to make healthier foods available in lower income areas to help curb obesity rates among kids and the wider population.

McDonald’s, in particular, has been caught in the crossfire of this movement before. In May, many parents and health advocacy groups called for the company to resign its mascot, Ronald McDonald, on charges that he is luring children specifically into eating unhealthy food.

While it may be hard to argue with the idea of making kids healthier, it is worth noting that there are plenty of other questionable products in this country marketed toward children, ranging from alcohol to guns. Will local governments step in to regulate these as well? Then again, studies have shown that happy meals cannot decompose even after six months, which is legitimately frightening, so on second thought, maybe this is a good product to start regulating right away.

Check out MainStreet’s roundup of fast food options that are not totally horrible.

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