Santa Clara, CA: Not healthy? No toy!


Santa Clara, CA officials say they’re trying to keep the children living in the Silicon Valley healthy. A new ordinance – passed earlier this year – went into effect that orders about a dozen fast-food outlets and several other family-owned restaurants in the area to withhold any incentive item, like a toy, with a meal that contains more than 485 calories, more than 600 milligrams of sodium and excessive amounts of fat and sugars.

“This ordinance does not attack toys,” said county Supervisor Ken Yeager, who pushed for the ban when it went before the board for a vote. “Obviously, toys, in and of themselves, do not make children obese. But it is unfair to parents and children to use toys to capture the tastes of children when they are young to get them hooked on eating high-sugar, high-fat foods early in life.”

County supervisors said restaurants encourage children to choose specific menu items by linking them with free toys and other incentives. The Federal Trade Commission estimated that about $360 million was spent in 2006 on toys that were included in kids’ meals, reported the story.

A 2008 study by the Center for Science in the Public Interest showed that 10 out of 12 meals that came with toys exceeded the recommended caloric limits for children, Yeager said.

The California Restaurant Association lobbied against the ordinance saying it was misguided and another example of government overreaching. The organization placed ads in local newspapers against the ordinance and conducted a poll they said showed that an overwhelmingly number of county residents opposed such a measure.

“The people of Santa Clara County believe they are in a better position to make decisions about what to feed their kids than politicians are,” Daniel Conway, a spokesman for the organization that represents 22,000 restaurants in California, told KTVU.

Conway said fast-food chains already offer healthy options for children, including milk, carrot sticks, apple slices and whole grains. He said the ordinance looked like a simplistic attention-grabbing move rather than a comprehensive, thoughtful effort to curb a serious problem.

He also worried that such an ordinance would create safety issues in restaurants where children want a toy but can’t have one because the combination of food items they’ve chosen doesn’t meet the regulations.

A spokesman for McDonald’s said the company was disappointed in the ordinance but it does not affect any of its stores in Santa Clara County.

“Concerning this ordinance, 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,” said Walt Riker, a McDonald’s spokesman.

The county public health department would be responsible for enforcing the ordinance. A restaurant would face fines of $250 for a first offense, $500 for a second and up to $1,000 for subsequent violations.

RBR-TVBR observation: Seriously, folks, most overworked parents these days do not have the time to home cook all of their kids’ meals. Fast food is often the alternative. A toy makes the little ones happy. What’s the problem? This is simply an overpaid local government with nothing better to do with taxpayer dollars. We assume McDonald’s is choosing not to sue based on potential negative media attention, but we bet they’d like to. You can’t legislate everything, but this sure smacks of the intent to—kind of like the U.K government with its own children’s ad laws.