Toys that have been synonymous with kids’ meals at fast-food restaurants could soon be banned in San Francisco under a new law proposed Tuesday if the food contains too much fat, sugar or salt.
Earlier this year, Santa Clara County became the first local government in the nation to adopt such a law, but it only applies to unincorporated areas and affects a handful of restaurants.
San Francisco’s proposal could have a far greater impact. The restrictions would pertain to all restaurants but effectively would target the dozens of fast-food establishments in the city, among them McDonald’s, Jack in the Box and Burger King.
San Francisco’s legislation would not prohibit toy giveaways outright, but limit them to menu items that meet strict nutrition guidelines.
For example, no single item could contain more than 200 calories or 480 milligrams of sodium. An entire meal could have no more than 600 calories.
That would wipe out all but a handful of the Happy Meal offerings at McDonald’s — and none of those options include a small hamburger. Several meet the calorie count, but would fail on the sodium content.
“Our legislation will encourage restaurants that offer unhealthy meals marketed toward children and youth to offer healthier food options with incentive items or toys,” said Supervisor Eric Mar, chief sponsor of the legislation.
The restaurant industry doesn’t like the strategy.
“The San Francisco Board of Supervisors seems to have an insatiable appetite for punishing the restaurant industry. However, the widespread ridicule that this proposal will receive should give them a case of heartburn,” said Daniel Conway, director of public affairs for the California Restaurant Association.
“Toy bans are only proven to disappoint kids, frustrate parents and generate headlines for ambitious politicians,” Conway added. “The Board of Supervisors needs to stop gorging on political gimmicks and instead focus on creating jobs in their city.”