We know that fast food is bad for us. It’s filled with excessive calories, sodium and fat. It’s “meals” are often based largely on meat, which is very damaging to the environment as well as our health.

Yet, we seem to think it’s completely alright to use toys and other kid-oriented incentives to entice children to eat fast food and get them hooked on the habit early. McDonald’s, alone, spends hundreds of millions a year on toy promotions…. And it rakes in $40-50 billion a year from kids 12 and under, plus another $670 billion on “family” purchases.

Well, apparently some folks in San Francisco have decided that this is completely inappropriate and predatory marketing.

Last week, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors Land Use Committee voted 3-0 in favor of an ordinance to limit toy giveaways in children’s meals that have excessive calories, sodium and fat.

“Our children are sick. Rates of obesity in San Francisco are still climbing, and among children of color in particular. Restaurants in San Francisco should be providing healthful food choices for our families,” said ordinance sponsor Supervisor Eric Mar. “This is a challenge to the industry to think about children’s health first.”

If fast food restaurants add more fruit and vegetables and limit the calories, using toys would still be acceptable according to the ordinance — (not something I’m thrilled with anyway, but good if they can at least use this to make the food healthier).

While this ordinance would be for all restaurants, its clear focus is McDonald’s and its famous Happy Meals (which are even popular here in Poland).

The full Board of Supervisors will vote on this ordinance later this month.

Apparently, this has really gotten McDonald’s attention. Markie McBrayer of Corporate Accountability International wrote to me:

This ordinance has struck a deep nerve with the industry — a clear indication of the primacy of predatory marketing to its business model. McDonald’s and the fast food industry have launched an all out PR offensive to influence the political process.

Where McDonald’s usually hides behind its trade association to avoid tarnishing its public image, it has come out from behind the curtain to oppose the policy. It has taken out a full-page ad in the San Francisco Chronicle, flown top executives in for a series of behind closed doors meetings aimed at getting Supervisor Mar to compromise or pull the policy, and threatened a lawsuit if all else fails.

Continue Reading about the Potential Happy Meal Ban in San Francisco on the Next Page…

Photo Credit: Stéfan via flickr

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