San Francisco proposal would cut salt, calories
Bruce Horovitz of USA Today explains that a serious move is afoot to force fast-food giants to make kids meals more nutritionally viable if they want to sell them with kid-luring toys.
In San Francisco, newly proposed legislation would ban toys from most kids meals sold at McDonald’s, Burger King and other chains unless the meals meet more stringent calorie and sodium limits. The legislation also would require fruit or veggies in each meal.
The $179 billion fast-food industry is watching with intense interest – aware that menu-labeling requirements that started locally in New York City several years ago have since been copied regionally and will become federal law in 2014 under the health care act.
Kids meals rank among fast food’s big sales catalysts. Although kids meal sales are declining – because budget-minded parents sometimes opt for dollar menu items instead –the industry sold about $5.5 billion worth last year, researcher NPD Group reports.
Nothing gets kids more excited about eating out than a kids meal with about eating out than a kids meal with a toy. That’s what 36% of kids under age 6 say they like best about eating out NPD reports. That compares with 16% who like the food best.
“Companies know it doesn’t work to advertise food to kids – they want the toy,” says Michael Jacobson, executive director of the consumer group Center of Science in the Public Interest.
For each kid who buys a kids meal, there’s typically at least one parent – there’s typically at least one parent –and often siblings – who make more profitable purchases, says Ron Paul, president of researcher Technomic.
San Francisco now emerges as the biggest city to place a stake in the ground linking kid’s meal toys and nutrition. Several months ago, Santa Clara County, just south of San Francisco, became the first local government to enact such a law, but it applies to a tiny number of restaurants. In San Francisco, it could affect hundreds.
“There’s no fundamental conflict between a healthy meal and a happy meal” says Rajiv Bhatia, environmental health director for San Francisco.
He says chains could easily confirm by making relatively small changes in ingredients or portion size, reducing the number of French fries, or replacing fries with veggies, fruit or salad. Officials at McDonald’s and Burger King declined to comment.
“This is just another example of San Francisco taking a bad idea and making it worse,” says Daniel Conway, spokesman for the California Restaurant Association. “This ordinance will put restaurant employees in the position of playing food police.”
Source: Bruce Horovitz, USA Today