More Happy Meal Toy Bans on the Way?

There were plenty of people, I’m sure, who hated the recent decision in San Francisco to ban Happy Meal toys (or, more specifically, toy incentives in fast food meals that don’t meet basic nutritional guidelines). But there were also plenty of supporters, of course, and some of those supporters from different areas of the country are now looking at the possibility of similar legislation in their cities.

After the Healthy Meals ordinance passed in San Francisco, Judy Grant, director of the Value [the] Meal Campaign, said: “We heard from people across the country who are excited about this. This is not going to stop at San Francisco.

And just last week, City Councilor Greg Mertzig of Superior, WI proposed a similar ordinance. The proposal, interestingly enough, comes from a veteran concerned about the recent report by Mission: Readiness that obesity is compromising national security.

In an interview with Wisconsin Public Radio Mertzig compared toys in unhealthy meals to candy cigarettes:

“It was a marketing tactic by the tobacco industry to get kids to think it was cool to smoke at a very young age, develop these lethal habits at a very young age. To a lesser extent, these toys in their Happy Meals kind of do the same thing. They reward kids and get them to think that it’s the OK thing to do at a very young age.”

A local group of public health advocates wrote an op-ed supporting the measure in the Duluth News Tribune last week as well, calling on the the Superior City Council to “vote for this common-sense measure.” However, they recognized the hurdles in facing the fast-food industry (which fought the ordinance in San Francisco pretty heavily and is likely to do so anywhere it pops up,.. at least at the beginning):

“McDonald’s executives flew into town yesterday, and the fast-food industry likely will send more lobbyists, create delays, and make promises of ‘healthier’ meals in an effort to avoid true accountability in Superior.”

Unfortunately, the measure in Superior did get voted down. So, McDonald’s won this round, but you can be pretty sure that this is going to pop up in more cities around the country. Could it be yours?

Thank you to Markie McBrayer, an activist with Corporate Accountability International, for contributing a great deal to this article and tipping me off to the story.

Photo Credit: Thomas Hawk via flickr (CC license)

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5 thoughts on “More Happy Meal Toy Bans on the Way?”

  1. You want to live in a free country and then take all of the responsibility away from the public. Why not have more education and less legislation – federal and local. It started (recently) with smoking, then came the sugar, now the toys. What happened – I know if I smoke a couple of packs of cigarettes a day I’m going to have problems. I also know that if I eat myself into oblivion I’m going to be unhealthy and fat. If parents feed their children a daily diet of crap their children are going to be fat and unhealthy. I ran a day care center for many years and know that many felt that they had no choice but to go the fast food route as their lives were so busy. After a few conversations on cause and effect, action and reaction – my clients in my daycare center saw that it was really easier to go the healthy route. I had almost 99% attendance because my kids were healthy. I also provided areas for breast feeding, parents were always welcome to come and socialize during the day to see how their child was getting along and when they could not we posted photographs on the bulletin board for them to see. This was all done way back in the early 1980’s. Now if I could do that way back then (in my late 20’s at the time) why are the public schools and 21st century parents having such a hard time???? Why is the government having to step in to legislate??? I’m just really tired of losing all of my freedoms because people don’t know how to control themselves. I think todays parents are acting like a bunch of children – grow up and be the adult! Get your head out of the sand and don’t feed your kids garbage. A cup cake, happy meal or candy bar is suppose to be a treat not a daily meal plan.

  2. I hate this. It’s not up to the kids to buy Happy Meals, it’s up to the parents – and it should be the parents who step up and tell their kids “no”.

    Also, FYI, you can just buy the Happy Meal toy, separate from the meal. Hardly much of a deterrent.

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