Unhappy Californians Boot the Happy Meal


The (in power) people of San Francisco have spoken. Out with the Happy Meal! Almost…

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed an ordinance that requires any restaurant that includes toys with a purchase to meet specific nutritional guidelines. This continues San Francisco’s distinct lead as the most legislatively progressive City in the United States. After banning plastic bags, requiring all government run offices utilize non-toxic cleaning products, and putting a standard into place that all new government construction must be LEED certified, the people in power in San Francisco continue their visionary practices.

Despite McDonald’s claims of persecution and targeting, the ordinance is applicable to all restaurants that include a toy with purchase that do not meet specific nutritional guidelines. The ordinance has been under consideration for awhile, and restaurant industry groups as well as individual companies like McDonalds have been fighting its passage into law.

Why an Ordinance on Meals with Toys?

Childhood Obesity

The overweight and obesity numbers in the United States are staggering. Sadly enough, 15% of the children in the US are either overweight or obese. An atrocious and unhealthy jump since the advent of fast food. With a variety of factors playing into these numbers, it is difficult to pinpoint a true culprit. Perhaps that is because this epidemic that threatens the health of tens of millions of Americans has a large span of “causes”. Cheap food (with a high true cost to our health, environment, and human rights in developing nations), chemically-simulated food experience (read Omnivore’s Dilemma to read about how through a manipulation of the senses, chemists can make any piece of food trick your senses), and American’s distinct lack of exercise relative to other developed nations. The numbers threatening the lives of children have become such a large concern that the health care industry is has significantly increased their charges, and the health and fitness industry have significantly increased their range of products and enrollments for extreme cases of weight loss.


Now, the Ordinance that was passed actually does not “ban” anyone from selling food, it requires that they meet specific nutritional guidelines in order to provide a meal with a toy. The Ordinance goes into effect December 1st, so restauranteurs have a small bit of time (and plenty of previous notice prior to the vote) to get their new toy-included meals in nutritional order.

Direct-Marketing to Children

Direct marketing to children has been banned in many locations, and there are a few legislative actions that have been put in place to reduce this type of marketing. The first major and successful attack on direct-marketing to children came from the TRUTH campaign and others targeting cigarette companies like Philip Morris with the idea that if the companies target them, the ‘children’ or young adults have the right to target the companies right back. Although meals with toys may be marketed to a younger group, less vocal and action-oriented to fight their plastic toy that comes with their meal, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors took it upon themselves to protect the children. Some individuals believe that these types of regulation also help give power back to parents and guardians as the decision-makers during a time when the market is flooded with “wants” and “new things” to tantalize even the most well-behaved child.

The Details (honestly)

As stated earlier, this was not a direct attack on McDonalds but instead on an unsustainable and unhealthy practice within ALL food establishments. By creating standards that are clear and accepted by nutritionists and doctors as acceptable for healthy meals, not just happy meals, the government has taken children’s health upon themselves.

The nutritional requiremenst are…

  • Calories: Less than 600
  • Sodium: Less than 640 milligram.
  • Fat: Less than 35 percent of calories from fat; Less than 10 percent from saturated fat (with exception for nuts, seeds, eggs or low-fat cheese).
  • Fruits & Vegetables: At least half a cup of fruit or three-quarters of a cup of vegetables

“This is a challenge to the restaurant industry to think about children’s health first and join the wide range of local restaurants that have already made this commitment,” Mar said.

And it challenge it may be for some restaurants to truly adhere to these standards.

Will My Happy Meal be Banned?

This legislation was passed within the City of San Francisco. There has been little talk about other Cities, States, or the Federal government following San Francisco’s lead. That said, if McDonalds and other food establishments with toys as part of meals want to stay in that market, they will have to adapt. If the larger companies adapt, and smaller businesses can share their lessons and transitions to healthier meals, then there is little reason not to adopt the healthier standards. If the framework and advice from similar businesses is available, why not take advantage of it?

Did they go to far?

Companies like McDonalds are claiming discrimination and that the San Francisco government has gone too far. Is the regulation of the industry fair? Well, that can be a pretty subjective discussion. What is important is that it is legal, and the intent behind the regulation was not to discriminate, but to address a growing epidemic of childhood obesity that threatens the lives of our future changemakers. In fact, the issue of childhood obesity has grown into such a health threat in the United States, that First Lady Michelle Obama, and world famous Chef Jamie Oliver are making very public efforts to bring nutrition, proportion control, and education back to food for children in the US.

What do you think? Do you think the San Francisco government went too far, or that we as a nation haven’t gone far enough to address this critical health issue?

Photo Credits:
Last Happy Meal

Epoch Times

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  1. This is a step in the right direction, but I don’t know how effective it will be initially. What would stop companies like McDonalds from just charging extra for the toy and not including it as part of the meal? They have been quite unethical about always targeting children with their clown mascot, toys, playrooms, etc. They realize they can brainwash the kids into wanting to eat there. Really they should be forcing parents to learn more about nutrition as they are often the main problem.

  2. To be quite honest, I don’t think this is fair at all to the restaurants. It is not the restaurant’s fault that the parents and/or general population of the USA is obese, overweight. People make choices, people can choose to go wherever they want, it’s up to the parents to lead their child into a good healthy path. It is really unfair when regulation like this puts a stranglehold on business. This is not going to solve childhood obesity and it is totally the wrong approach to solving the problem.

    If they want to solve the obesity and overweight problem of America you have to change the mindset and thinking of Americans.

    Till then,


  3. This move has to be very careful, since they are opening up Pandora’s Box here. They are moving towards establishing more control on what people eat.

  4. Thank you everyone for weighing in on this. As you can tell, it is a highly debated issue. Keep in mind its intent was twofold: to both address childhood obesity and direct-marketing toward children by the food industry.

    It will be interesting to see if it is adopted elsewhere and how it plays out for the northern California food companies. If I learn more, I will be sure to share. Thank you all for your thoughts and for adding to the discussion.

  5. Yes kids are more susceptible to advertising, but SEO Miami has a point about this opening up Pandora’s Box. Does this mean that all fast food companies and junk food companies will be limited from targeting kids with advertising? Seems unfair to target an entire industry with such legislation. They are basically saying that people aren’t smart enough to make diet decisions on their own.

    • @Aluminum, it is definitely unfair, unfortunately that’s just how it goes sometimes in the political world…. :(

      Another idea to help solve the issue… if thats what they really want to do… how about start with the school cafeteria food, and make that healthier. In my high school, I graduated in 2005… they had alot of fried food being offered daily to the students, like french fries!


  6. It’s the duty of us grown-ups to create awareness about the risks of obesity to kids and not just boot it from the fast-food joints. That is the wrong way to go about things.

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