San Francisco Moving to Ban Happy Meals

Getting your kids to not eat fast food may have just gotten a whole lot easier in San Francisco.  No more happy meals.

They’re not planning to ban the meal as much as the toy that comes with it, but really…the toy is what makes the happy meal.  The government there feels that toys are used as incentives to get children to want more kids’ meals and are contributing to childhood obesity.

Happy meal = Toy  = “MOM!  I WANT A HAPPY MEAL!”

Sound familiar?  How could the children possibly live without completing the set of kids’ meal toys?  It would be such a shame to have Homer, Marge, Lisa and Maggie with no Bart Simpson.

The legislation intends to break this link between toy rewards and unhealthy eating.

The Healthy Meal Incentive legislation will set nutritional standards for meals that come with toys.  The legislation intends to target childhood obesity and encourage healthy eating.  Here is the official summary:

“Supervisor Mar introduces Healthy Meal Incentive legislation, which sets nutritional standards for restaurant food that is accompanied by toys or other youth focused incentive items. This legislation is aimed at promoting healthy eating habits and to address issues related to childhood obesity. Fast food restaurants target children and youth by offering toys and other incentive items. The Healthy Meal Incentive legislation would encourage restaurants to provide healthier meal options. To provide an incentive item, meals must contain fruits and vegetables, not exceed 600 calories or 200 calories for a single food item and must not have beverages that have excessive fat or sugar.”

This won’t be the first toy ban in California if it goes through.  Santa Clara county banned toys in meals earlier this year.

Reactions are mixed, as some people feel it is the parents’ responsibility, not the government’s, to teach their children how to eat healthily, but others are all for the measure.

What do you think?  Should toys be banned in unhealthy meals?


Photo credit: Flickr Creative Commons by EvelynGiggles

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About the Author

I spent the last five years earning my PhD in Engineering. I enjoy all types of science and writing, so I am trying out a new career path in science publication and communication. Recently, I have moved to Oxford, England. As an environmentally-conscious person, Oxford is a great place to live...notably there is no car required. I love to talk about vegan cooking, plant-based diets and the benefits of such, so just ask if you are interested. I do ballet for fun and love kitties.
  • Should toys be banned in unhealthy meals? Sheesh, what a loaded question. So if the meal was brussel sprouts and tofu you'd have no problem tossing in a Power Ranger?

    I guess Pavlovian training is fine as long as it's the right Pavlovian training.

    Said it before, say it again, the six year old gets a Happy Meal now and again. She also loves brussel sprouts, broccoli, and grassfed chicken fajitas.

    • writinginoxford

      I personally don't like that toys are associated with food period. It's a terrible marketing ploy…healthy food or not. Though, I think the gov’t stepping in is a little bit too much.

      Do you think toys in meals are OK in general?

  • Exit105NJ

    just say no works with more than just drugs, parents, dont forget you are the parents and you have the final say so on what you child can or can not have, my daughter gets fast food probally twice a month, and if their is a collection she wants to complete we sometimes buy just the toy and not the meal, when we eat at home the rest of the month she knows she has to drink her milk, eat her veggies, fruits, beans, etc. etc., geeeeeez its really not that serious

    • writinginoxford

      I agree so much with you. Government legislation may ban the toy, but it won't fix bad parenting!

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  • "The Healthy Meal Incentive legislation would encourage restaurants to provide healthier meal options."

    "Encourage" here having the meaning of "force."

  • Disgusting……parents need to do some actual f*cking PARENTING and decide how fat their kid is and how often he/she can eat a happy meal and still retain a healthy BMI……I'm so sick and tired of lazy, disinterested, RELUCTANT parents blaming everything that goes wrong in their childs' life on everything instead of themselves when indeed, we ALL KNOW who is EXACTLY to blame and do….. we just might not make it obvious…..I for one do……but that's me… 3 children are very healthy and active in sports…..for obvious reasons….they may not have the "BEST' equipment, but they ARE out there and having fun at the ones that they enjoy….I hate RELUCTANT, LAZY, UNINVOLVED parents……they'd be better off if you put them up for adoption to a family that actually DESIRES children……

  • ashbar

    Ban the toys if you want…my kids would ask for Happy Meals even if they came without a toy. They actually enjoy that conglomeration of chemicals & processed food particles that McDonald's calls chicken nuggets. But as their PARENT, I make the CHOICE not to feed them that garbage except on extremely rare occasions, even though they often whine & beg. Not only that, I EXPLAIN to them WHY I don't allow them to have it. That's really the problem here–toys may be a marketing tool to encourage children to ask their parents for a product….but ultimately it's up to the parent to say NO, not the goverment to make laws banning toys or even ingredients. People need to vote with their wallet & personal choices. Here's a link to a debate that I had with Walt Riker from McDonald's about this exact topic:

    • Jeannie Moulton

      Your discussion with Walt Riker is interesting. When he says what’s in the food…it *almost* does sound healthy. It’s funny that he left out preservatives, oil, sugar, salt, “natural flavoring” from the ingredients.

  • What a joke! What will they ban next? The games on the Happy Meal box, because they're too fun? I thought this was a free country? Here is a better idea than banning Happy Meals. Ban liberal moron Supervisors like Eric Mar.

  • Pingback: San Francisco Supervisor Eric Mar’s Unpopular Ban on Happy Meals – Obesity Solvers()

  • I am so guilty of occasionally giving in to the diet desires of my child, but I do support a more healthy diet more often than not. It is not the government’s job to dictate what the public should or should not consume with ANY product. That is fascism, which this country is rapidly moving toward, which is even more sinister than the socialist agenda of our present government. It must be stopped.

    • Jeannie Moulton

      Remember…this is San Francisco! They are always way way WAY more left leaning than other places. It doesn’t mean that anywhere else in the country is even considering adopting such a measure. No need to worry.

      • Did you read the end of the article?

        This won’t be the first toy ban in California if it goes through. Santa Clara county banned toys in meals earlier this year.

        • Jeannie Moulton

          Yes, I am the author. Santa Clara county is basically San Francisco.

  • I’m sorry, but this is horribly futile. Just because there’s no toy in the bag anymore doesn’t mean kids won’t want greasy fast food, and it certainly doesn’t mean the parents will stop buying it for them. If they’re feeding it often enough to their child to cause some problems taking out the toy won’t make them care more about their child’s nutritional needs.

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  • The toy is just a toy.

    We should focus on healthy meals – with quality ingredient!

    We should focus on much larger variety of food – 5 colors in salad, many vegtables and a many kinds of bread from full-grain wheat and other cereals.

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  • Communism at its finest. Leave it to The Socialist Republic of California to lead the way.

  • What do I think? It is my responsibility to see that my children eat well, not the damned state government! What are they going to take away next, kid’s TV shows and movies? The legislatures had best focus on the state’s more pressing problems, such as the budget. So glad I don’t live in California!!

  • What patronizing sanctimonious garbage! Where does this lust to forbid pleasure come from?

    The prohibition is totally unnecessary. For a start, Happy Meals can be healthy meals. Any parent can pick a happy meal with carrots instead of fries and milk instead of Coke. What is left is the hamburger–absolutely not more fattening than the holier-than-thou-meals (think veggie beans and rice with melted cheese on top)which are as heavy in fat and calories (if not more so)!

    “Healthy” is not necessarily healthy, and “unhealthy” is not necessarily unhealthy!

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  •  I agree, banning fast food doesn’t make kids healthier.  I think the focus should be on healthy families – healthy groceries, making meals nutritous together, being active together.  It’s about a healthy lifestyle and that means everything in moderation.  I don’t eat fast food often but sometimes I enjoy a #3 from McDonald’s, I would hate to have that taken away by the govenment.

  • Pingback: San Francisco Supervisors Override Mayor Newsom — Happy Meal Toys Officially Banned – EcoLocalizer()