Fast Feeders Face Toy Ban in Santa Clara

Discussion
Apr 30, 2010

By George Anderson

Millions of kids in America have grown up expecting to get toys with their burgers and fries, but that may prove to be a thing of the past if California’s Santa Clara County passes a ban on promotions that pair giveaways with foods that are of questionable nutritional value.

The proposed Santa Clara ordinance specifically targets foods high in calories and sodium content. Restaurants would not be able to give away toys with meals above 485 calories and 600 mg of sodium.

The California Restaurant Association (CRA) has been actively seeking to quash the measure, which is scheduled for a final vote on May 11. The group sees national implications for the proposed measure.

“It sets a tone. It could have a domino affect,” Amalia Chamorro, the CRA’s director of local government affairs, told Nation’s Restaurant News.

McDonald’s, as would be expected, is against a ban.  Walt Riker, a spokesperson for the chain, said in a statement. “Parents tell us they want to have the right to make their own decisions. Our customers are smart, and they will continue to make choices that are right for them.”

Many public health experts are siding with the county government on the measure.

“Food should be fun, but we have to make health the incentive rather than the toy,” said Christine Gerbstadt, a registered dietitian and spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association, told AdAge.com.

“This ordinance levels the playing field,” said Ken Yeager, president of Santa Clara County’s Board of Supervisors, in a statement. “It helps parents make the choices they want for their children without toys and other freebies luring them toward food that fails to meet basic nutritional standards.”

Discussion Questions: Will an ordinance banning toy giveaways with foods that are high in calories and sodium lead parents to make healthier choices for their kids? Would passage of a ban in Santa Clara County have a domino effect across the nation?

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13 Comments on "Fast Feeders Face Toy Ban in Santa Clara"


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David Livingston
Guest
11 years 1 month ago

This is misguided but well meaning. The dollar menu probably contributes more to childhood obesity than some meaningless toy. The dollar menu will probably be attacked next.

John Boccuzzi, Jr.
Guest
John Boccuzzi, Jr.
11 years 1 month ago

This is a very simple step in the right direction, but more of a shot across the bow to get restaurants (primarily fast food) to start thinking more about nutrition and healthier options. All you need to do is watch one episode of Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution on NBC to know we have a serious weight and overall health issue in America.

Not having a toy with the meal won’t change what parents do, but will hopefully give them a small signal that all of us need to be more conscious about what we eat and feed our children. How can Walt Riker say consumers will continue to make choices that are right for them when child obesity is at an all time high? Did he watch the 2004 movie Super Size me?

This movement to eat healthier is a huge opportunity for the restaurant industry as well as food manufacturers and grocery stores. Don’t wait to follow, run to lead this effort and you will be rewarded.

Doug Fleener
Guest
11 years 1 month ago

It’s the choices the parents make from the menu and not the toy. I don’t see this changing anyone’s eating habits, but just leading to disappointed kids. How about replacing the useless toy with items that promote exercise and movement?

Valerie Thomas
Guest
Valerie Thomas
11 years 1 month ago

Many fast food restaurants have offered healthy options in the past.. people just don’t purchase them. Shaker salad at McDonalds, soy burgers, salad bar at Wendy’s, etc. Changing the law will only help them save money by not having to provide a toy with a meal a parent is going to purchase anyway. If you want to change behavior place the calories and fat on the menu board along with the price. Studies have shown when restaurants provide this on their menu more people tend to choose healthier options.

Ed Rosenbaum
Guest
11 years 1 month ago

I can’t see how this will change a parent’s choice of where to go for a meal. What should a toy have to do with it? The choice needs to be made by the quality of the product and nutritional value, not a toy.

George Anderson
Guest
George Anderson
11 years 1 month ago

I can remember many years ago having our second child calling out “toy” every time we drove by a certain hamburger chain. We consequently made the decision to stop buying the kid meals because we thought we could do better by our kids by feeding them more nutritious food. Think the Santa Clara people are trying to do the right thing here, but ultimately this is not about the toys, it’s about the decisions that parents make for their kids.

Gene Detroyer
Guest
11 years 1 month ago

Let them keep the toys and instead label the Happy Meal Box with “THIS MEAL IS OF QUESTIONABLE NUTRITIONAL VALUE”. Then watch how quickly the fast food guys make their Happy Meals more nutritious.

Giacinta Shidler
Guest
Giacinta Shidler
11 years 1 month ago

I don’t see this affecting eating habits at all. Parents go to these restaurants because they’re kid-friendly, and the happy meals are part of that because they have kid-size portions. What else is the parent going to buy for their child, the adult-menu items?

Toy or no toy, the happy meal is a cheap, easy, kid-friendly choice. I really fail to understand what the politicians are trying to accomplish here.

Lee Peterson
Guest
11 years 1 month ago

I personally agree with this and much of what’s been said above about the dollar meal being the real culprit, but I have to say this: if you allow individual jurisdictions to ban marketing tactics, what would that lead to? Quite possibly then, Des Plaines, Illinois will no longer allow good looking girls to be in beer ads, Grandview, Ohio will no longer allow humor about white guys in their movie posters, and car ads with flying mud, can’t do that in Quincy, Mass. Is that what we want?

Now that I think about it…Yes! (BTW, we’re already doing this in planning and zoning commissions around the country.)

Craig Sundstrom
Guest
11 years 1 month ago

Is there no level of micromanaging people’s lives that’s too small for some busybody government body to stoop to? Living here, in the Bay Area, where it seems like the various county Boards of Supervisors are in a fight to the bottom, I would have to say “no.”

Robert Straub
Guest
Robert Straub
11 years 1 month ago

This is a good thing because toys work. When McDonald’s went heavily into Eastern Europe in the early nineties, they didn’t go after adults, they went after the kids with balloons and toys. Those kids are now adults and they don’t remember life without McDonald’s–mission accomplished.

John Crossman
Guest
John Crossman
11 years 1 month ago

My 5 and 6 year old girls are not happy about this, not happy at all.

Tony Orlando
Guest
11 years 1 month ago

When will it end, when these do-gooders think they can run our lives. Parents either get it or they don’t, and government can not solve one thing. Look at the great society experiment, which has not done one thing to drop the poverty levels with trillions invested.

My kids actually play outside, and belong to a high school sports program. To stay healthy, you have to get kids moving around, without the government telling me to.COMMON SENSE!!!

Is there any left?

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