San Fran Lawmakers May Wipe the Smile Off Happy Meals

By Lisa Flam

SAN FRANCISCO – The McDonald’s Happy Meal will get a little less happy if San Francisco lawmakers have their way.

By a veto-proof 8-3 margin, the Board of Supervisors approved a proposal Tuesday night that would prohibit fast-food chains like McDonald’s from giving away toys with kids’ meals that exceed set levels of salt, fat and sugar. And meals with free toys or incentives must include fruit and veggies.

Most Happy Meals, as they’re served today, would be banned under the measure, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The proposal, intended to help fight childhood obesity, still requires a final vote, to be taken next week. If approved, it would take effect in December 2011. Mayor Gavin Newsom has promised a veto, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, but the measure had just enough support to override a veto.

“This is a tremendous victory for our children’s health,” said the measure’s chief sponsor, Supervisor Eric Mar, according to The Chronicle.

McDonald’s voiced disappointment with the vote and said the proposal backed in the progressive city is out of step with the mainstream.

“Public opinion continues to be overwhelmingly against this misguided legislation,” McDonald’s spokeswoman Danya Proud told the L.A. Times. “Parents tell us it’s their right and responsibility – not the government’s – to make their own decisions and to choose what’s right for their children.”

The ban is similar to one adopted in nearby Santa Clara County earlier this year that applies to a handful of restaurants, according to The Chronicle. Dozens of fast-food places in San Francisco would be affected by the ordinance, the newspaper said.

The measure allows toy giveaways for meals that have less than 600 calories, less than 640 milligrams of sodium and less than 35 percent of the calories derived from fat, according to The Chronicle. Meals with toys must have at least a half-cup of fruit and three-quarters of a cup of vegetables.

Mar noted that toys would still be allowed if the guidelines are met. “It’s not a ban; it’s an incentive,” Mar told The Chronicle.

Scott Rodrick, who owns 10 McDonald’s in the city, said the measure could hurt business if customers cross city limits for other McDonald’s.

“There will be sales loss, there may be jobs impacted, and I know the city of San Francisco will lose tax income to people wanting a McDonald’s experience without government intervention,” Rodrick told The Associated Press.

One parent, Concepcion Dawes, 20, supported the ordinance as a way to reduce the appeal of calorie-laden food.

“Fast food is really fattening, and it’s really addicting, and sometimes it’s hard to tell a child no,” Dawes, who has a 2-year-old, told AP.

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