Happy Meal toys and other fast-food kids' meals toys have been called into question lately after a New York City councilman, following in the footsteps of a measure adopted in San Francisco last year, proposed that free toys be banned from fast-food meals intended to appeal to children unless the meals meet certain healthfulness guidelines. Parham admitted she often says "no" to her kids when they ask for Happy Meals, leading McDonald's to counter that "she was not misled by any advertising, nor did she rely on any information from McDonald's." "In short, advertising to children any product that a child asks for but the parent does not want to buy would constitute an unfair trade practice," McDonald's said, in describing their argument against the lawsuit.
New York City Council member Leroy G. Comrie Jr. said kids' meals, such as those offered at McDonald's and other fast-food establishments, need reduced amounts of fat, salt and sugar if toys are to be included. He introduced the bill to New York City Council on April 6, arguing that toys only be offered in kids' meals that contain fewer than 500 calories and 600 milligrams of sodium. Fewer than 35% of the calories may come from fat, he said, save for the inclusion of nuts, seeds, peanut butter or other nut-based butters. The meal would also have to include a half cup of fruit or vegetables, or a serving of whole-grain products. TheStreet asked readers to weigh in on whether the ban was a good idea -- that anything to help fight the battle of childhood obesity is a step in the right direction -- or a bad one -- that banning toys from kids' meals will not do anything to promote healthy eating habits in children. Voters overwhelmingly agreed it was an awful proposal. A whopping 92.3% of the 194 voters though the bill a bad idea, while just 7.7%, or 15 voters, thought it could help fight childhood obesity. The city of San Francisco's board of supervisors voted for a similar kids' meal toy banning proposal in November; Santa Clara, Calif. enacted comparable legislation earlier last year.
McDonald's and the New York State Restaurant Association are likely not to take this battle lightly. "This proposal robs parents of choice while increasing the already burdensome regulation on local restaurant owners," said Andrew Rigie, executive vice president of the New York City Chapter of the New York Restaurant Association, according to a New York Times report. An executive for McDonald's New York region, Mason Smott, said that "taking away toys from kids' meals won't solve childhood obesity." "Our Happy Meals make it easier for families to choose the right foods in portions just for kids," Smoot said. "We provide options for our customers and trust them to make the decisions that are right for their families. Politicians should, too."
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