Santa Clara County, in California, is the first government in the nation to ban toys from kids’ meals high in fat, calories, salt and sugar. On Tuesday, April 27, Santa Clara County supervisors voted 3-2 to ban the promotion of meals with more than 485 calories.
In addition to high calorie meals, kids’ meals with more than six hundred milligrams of sodium, more than thirty-five percent of the total calories from fat, or more than ten percent of calories added from sugar are banned.
Ken Yeager, Santa Clara County’s supervisor, hopes that the law will discourage restaurants from using children’s love of toys to influence their choices in high-calorie, high-fat, and high-sodium meals.
“This ordinance breaks the link between unhealthy foods and prizes,” said Yeager. “Under this ordinance, restaurants are still permitted to give out toys. This ordinance merely imposes very specific, common-sense nutrition standards for children’s meals that are linked to these incentives.”
The decision affects more than a dozen fast food restaurants in Silicon Valley, and their California Restaurant Association is now asking, “Who Made Politicians the Toy Police?”
After a poll of local residents, the group found that eighty percent did not think the toy issue was important. The association’s director of public affairs, Daniel Conway, called it “excessive” and “purposely provocative,” and was disappointed that local officials did not consult him before creating the ordinance.
“Our industry just played a critical role in passing a national menu labeling standard, so that now customers in many restaurants will be able to have in front of them the exact nutritional content of the various menu items,” said Conway.
The ban is part of a national fight against childhood obesity. While toys are not forbidden entirely, it may mean that in order to receive a toy, McDonald’s Happy Meals may need to include apples instead of french fries, or milk instead of soda.
Restaurants have a ninety-day grace period (beginning May 11) before the ordinance goes into effect in order to revise their menus and reduce the fat, sodium, and calorie content of their meals.