[Update: The Board passed the ordinanace by an 8-3 vote. Mayor Gavin Newsom vowed to veto it. Details here.]
This is why we’re fat? Toys? Really?
The San Francisco Board of Supervisors this week proposed a new law that would allow children to eat anything they want…but deny them a toy “incentive” if they eat food the supervisors don’t like. A hamburger, low-fat milk and small fries at McDonald’s? No toy for you!
What do the supervisors define as healthy? No more than 200 calories or 480 milligrams of sodium are allowed per item; with 600 calories tops for a whole kids meal. So McDonald’s hamburger is out (250 calories), as are small fries (230 calories). The 4-piece Chicken McNuggets just squeak through at 190 calories and 400 mg of sodium. Apple Dippers with Low-Cal Caramel Sauce? Well, OK. They’re 100 calories, 35 mg. sodium.
There are other rules under the San Francisco plan: kids-meal items can have no more than 35% of their calories derived from fat (unless it’s from nuts, seeds or nut butters, from packaged egg, or packaged low-fat cheese). Oh, and no more than 10% of calories can from saturated fats (again excepting, nuts, seeds, packaged eggs and low-fat cheese). It can’t have more than .5 grams of trans fat.
There’s more. Kids meals must have at least one-half cup of fruit and three-quarters cup of vegetables (do the supervisors’ kids get that with every meal at home?). And no more than 35% of a beverage’s calories can be derived from fat; no more than 10% of calories from sugar.
Got that? If so, you get a toy. But kids won’t. There’s virtually nothing on the Carl’s Jr. or Hardee’s children’s menus that passes muster. Burger King’s Kraft Macaroni and Cheese makes it through (just 160 calories), as do its BK Fresh Apple Fries. But pretty much everything else is out of bounds, and kids are out of luck. No toy!
Supervisor Eric Mar told the San Francisco Chronicle that the proposed law “will encourage restaurants that offer unhealthy meals marketed toward children and youth to offer healthier food options with incentive items or toys.” He did not say what he planned to order today that has fewer than 200 calories.
But the supervisors’ approach could do the opposite of what they intend. Chains have already significantly improved their kids meals items, adding low-fat milk and fruit juice, applesauce as an alternative to fries, etc. The 200-calorie threshold is ridiculously low. And if you take away the kids’ toys, you’ve eliminated one strong incentive for parents to order from the healthier kids menu. No toy? Then Junior gets a hamburger, fries and a soda instead of Nuggets, Apple Dippers and apple juice.
The other option, of course, is to let parents decide what their children can eat. Radical.