Thursday, April 29, 2010

U.S. county bans toys with kids' meals

The California county that encompasses the Silicon Valley is banning the use of toys as incentives to purchase fast food meals for kids.
Santa Clara County has introduced a local ordinance stating that toys can only be offered if meals meet national nutritional criteria for children.
That would mean no McDonald's Happy Meals — if there were a McDonald’s restaurant in the area affected by the new law, that is.
However, the ordinance applies only to unincorporated areas and about 150 restaurants, none of them McDonald's.
Still, the fast food retailer has been quick to weigh in.
"McDonald's is disappointed with the council's decision, even though it does not impact any of our restaurants in Santa Clara County," McDonald's vice-president of corporate media relations said in an email to CBC News.
The deputy medical officer for Santa Clara County says the ordinance is not aimed at McDonald's.
"This is not directed at Happy Meals," Dr. Sara Cody said in an interview with CBC News, "What this is about is it's breaking the link between an incentive and a food that's not healthy for a kid. So, it's really an effort to support parents in offering healthier choices to their kids."
Santa Clara County has not escaped the epidemic of obesity sweeping North American children. One in four county youth are either overweight or obese.
"Childhood obesity is one of the most pressing issues of our time, and this new ordinance gives parents another tool for making healthy choices for their children," said county supervisor Ken Yeager, who pushed forward the proposal.
"This ordinance simply levels the playing field by taking away the incentive to choose fatty, sugary foods over healthier options."
Cody says the problem with offering kids toys is pester power.
"If they want that toy, they’re going to pester you for it, and they're going to wear you down," Cody said.
County officials hope to get other jurisdictions talking about the issue and perhaps passing similar laws.
"One of the goals that I think we've accomplished is to get the conversation started," said Dr. Cody.
It's not a conversation McDonald's wants to have.
"Concerning this particular ordinance, parents tell us they want to have the right to make their own decisions," Riker wrote in his email. "Our customers are smart, and they will continue to make choices that are right for them."
Source: CBC.CA