SAN FRANCISCO - November 3 - Today the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted in favor of an ordinance to
limit toy giveaways in children’s meals that have excessive calories,
sodium and fat, making San Francisco the first city in the nation to
take such action. The measure passed, on first reading, with a
veto-proof majority of 8-3 and will take effect December 1, 2011.
Santa Clara County
took similar action this spring, to address the similarly staggering
local rates of diet-related children’s health conditions like diabetes.
Since the introduction of the McDonald’s Happy Meal in 1979, toy
giveaways have been a primary vehicle for marketing junk food to kids.
Each year, fast food chains sell more than a billion children’s meals
with toys to children ages 12 or younger.
“This is a tremendous victory for our children’s health. Our
children are sick. Rates of obesity in San Francisco are disturbingly
high, especially among children of color,” said Supervisor Eric Mar, the
ordinance’s sponsor. “This is a challenge to the restaurant industry to
think about children’s health first and join the range of local
restaurants that have already made this commitment.”
More than a dozen local restaurants supported the measure, joining
an eclectic mix of public health professionals, educators, parents,
organizations, small businesses, community advocates, and faith leaders.
This broad coalition was up against a formidable foe in McDonald’s and
its surrogates, which spared no expense in opposing the measure. From
aggressively lobbying public officials to threatening lawsuits, it
quickly became clear just how critical toy giveaways are in peddling
fast food to kids.
Each year, McDonald’s and its competitors pump hundreds of millions
of dollars into toy promotions and other forms of predatory marketing
because the return on investment is high…for them, at least. Children
up to age 12 command $40-50 billion in directing purchasing power, and
influence another $670 billion in family purchases each year.
The downsides are the direct implications for children’s health.
Reducing even one form of predatory marketing – fast food TV
advertisements, for instance – could reduce the number of overweight
U.S. children and adolescents by nearly 20 percent.
“Supervisor Mar and his colleagues took a courageous stand in
advancing this common sense measure,” said Kelle Louaillier, executive
director of Corporate Accountability International. “As the city has so
many times before, it put children’s health first and paved the way for
other cities to curb the predatory marketing that continues to hold
public health education back.”
Corporate Accountability International’s recent report, Clowning with Kids’ Health
analyzes how the industry has in the past avoided accountability for
its role in today’s epidemic. For one, fast food chains have defended
giveaways and other predatory marketing by claiming they are
increasingly offering “healthier” options (such as apple dippers with a
sugary caramel dipping sauce). Not only is “healthier” a relative term, a
recent survey reveals that the “healthier” options are seldom the
default option on the menu – a parent must explicitly ask for them. The
toys are always included.
“So many of us are on the front lines of this children’s health
crisis,” said Dr. Carmen Rita Nevarez, vice president of the Public
Health Institute. “One in three kids are, or will become, sick from the
food they eat. We see it not only in our city’s waiting rooms and
classrooms, but in our soaring health care bills. It’s time for fast
food promotions to stop contravening our efforts to change this