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Santa Clara County votes to remove toys from salty, high-calorie fast-food kids' meals

April 27, 2010 |  3:45 pm

In Santa Clara County, one out of every four kids is either overweight or obese. Among 2- to 5-year-olds from low-income families, the rate is one in three. The county health system spends millions of dollars a year treating kids for health problems related to obesity, and the tab is growing.

Toy On Tuesday, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors took action by prohibiting fast-food restaurants from using toys to lure kids into buying unhealthy meals. The vote was 3-2.

In order to combine trinkets with burgers, chicken nuggets or other children's fare, a meal must meet some basic nutritional requirements. Among them:

-- No single food item can contain more than 200 calories, the drink cannot have more than 120 calories, and the entire meal cannot exceed 485 calories.

-- No single item can contain more than 480 milligrams of salt, and the entire meal is limited to 600 mg of salt.

-- No more than 35% of the calories can come from fat.

-- No more than 10% of total calories can come from added sugar.

None of McDonald’s Happy Meals meets these criteria – even those that substitute apple slices for french fries.

The ordinance must be approved at a second Board of Supervisors meeting in May. If so, restaurants will have 90 days to offer up alternative plans for squeezing fat, salt, sugar and calories out of kids’ meals. If none of the suggestions is suitable, the measure will become law for the 12 fast-food outlets in unincorporated parts of the county that are subject to the board’s jurisdiction. Violators would face a fine of up to $1,000.

Not surprisingly, the toy ban has angered folks who resent government efforts to help Americans eat healthier. The California Restaurant Assn., which represents fast-food eateries, commissioned a poll that found 80% of Santa Clara County residents opposed to the measure.

-- Karen Kaplan

Photo: Toys like this could not be included in kids' fast-food meals unless they meet nutritional standards in an ordinance approved by the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors. Credit: George Wilhelm / Los Angeles Times

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Comments (26)

Where has freedom gone?

Santa Clara has no actual problems to work on?

The nanny state strikes again...

this is outrageous! I have a right to be a fat american kid and play with crappy chinese made toys for 1 hour before it ends up in the toy basket in the family room then in the landfill after mom throws it away... Sheesh

Given that hamburgers have more than 200 calories - just look at your own hamburger recipe - the board of supervisors refuses to accept the fact that kids eat hamburgers and apples. Giving a kid a toy is ok. We now have so many people telling us what to do - when to do it - how to do it; its crazy.
The one thing we know for sure the supervisors who spent their time on this issue did not spend time on the number one issue in our area.

The board of supervisors should have focused on Jobs - Jobs - Jobs. The area has over 10 per cent unemployment.....

Now what they are saying is - We don't even want your children to eat apples and get free toys. As such, if you do live in the area, do consider voting the board out of office - they are out of touch with the community.

Seriously? We don't have anything more important in this country to worry about than happy meal toys? Goldman Sachs anybody? Make parents be the responsible ones, the government doesn't need to regulate what parents should already be doing. My son is 4 and between his mother and I he has only had In and Out burgers and I can count the number of times that has happened in 4 years on one hand. We the people need to be responsible not Big Brother.

Did you not read who is picking up the tab for the obese kids? You are.

"The county health system spends millions of dollars a year treating kids for health problems related to obesity, and the tab is growing."

This is a step in the right direction---Now, if we could get McDonald's to get the hell out of Children's Hospital L.A.

Why not pass a law in Santa Clara county making it illegal to have more than one kid? That, too, would reduce the "millions" spent on obese children. If you are going to disregard freedom and personal responsibility, don't f*&# around.

Is this the same Santa Clara that is overly Republican and believes govt. should stay out of our lives.

How about some personal responsibility instead? No, that would be the easy way out.

Make it against the law to eat after 10pm or in front of the TV.

Is this what it's coming to?

its about time I only go to Mc Donald's to buy freaking toys for my seven year old and I end up eating bad myself i hate peer pressure those seven year olds are evil

To DanO....

Regarding "picking up the tab for these obese kids", maybe we shouldn't be paying for each others' healthcare via insurance or any other mechanism. There's a thought that should appeal to a rational mind.

Freedom is a beautiful thing. But to me it also seems reasonable to prevent companies from luring kids into eating unhealthy food; I don't think this is causing a serious loss of freedom to anyone, except to companies who rely on this marketing technique to "breed" faithful customers since their childhood. I find it completely reasonable to enforce measures that will discourage people from eating junk food, since malnutrition-caused diseases are a big burden for the society.

Toys are the only part of Happy Meals worth having. Now what?

I have a 4 and 6 y olds....I work 40 + hrs a week and cook everyday...(male) I say cheese burger, drink ok.....happy meal.... ran out...once or twice a month.
if my kids are hungry they will settle .....if not ...they say ....lets come back at another time.....and we do....i have two happy healthy kids.
Toys I buy for them at a toy store....no salt or crap added other than the tax .....(no not super sizing) on toys either......its called ......parent responsibility.
don't shut the kids with" happy meals" or "hamburger-helper"... cook at home..take them to the nearest park on wknds... burn some home cooked calories...tasty and full of good energy.

meant rybird76..my apologies... ;-)

natural born ...stop being sarcastic and be realistic....grow up and have some responsibility.........or just keep on being a child and throw tantrums until u get ur happy meal.....seems like it has worked for u so far.... ;-p

I am going to miss the toys in the Happy Meals. I guess all I have now is www.McServed.com for joys! ROFL!!

It's a good day.
Change happens "One restaurant at a time". Social resposibility needs a nudge sometimes and in this case a decision made by others for the greateer good.
Thank you Santa Clara County. Hopefully many more will follow your example.

Freedom is what made America great, not the government acting as if they're both mommy and daddy. The only law that should be passed is the "mind your oun business law" or "keep govenrment out of our life law". There is zero constitutional authority for the government to pass any law like this.
I'm quite tired of the "I don't like, so you can't do" busybodys. Life is simple, mind your own business and you'll live alot longer and happier.

A poll conducted by MediaCurves.com among 301 viewers of a video clip highlighting potential government regulation of toys in fast-food kids’ meals found that majority of parents (82%) reported that the U.S. government should not regulate toys in fast-food kids’ meals. In addition, the majority of parents (77%) indicated that child obesity rates would stay the same if toys were banned from fast-food restaurant meals. Further results can be seen at: http://www.mediacurves.com/NationalMediaFocus/J7792-FastFoodKidsMeals/Index.cfm

Children from low-income families aged 2-5? Why that age range and that economic group? Oh yeah, because they hand-picked an arbitrary sub-set of the data that showed the highest rates. Include ages 6-10 and the rates drop back to the population mean is what I bet! But that's not the real problem.
The real problem is government legislation controlling otherwise harmless freedom. People aren't angered because the government is trying to help them eat healthier, as Ms. Kaplan here believes. Most people haven't been angry about the government health programs educating people about nutrition and exercise. No, we're angry because a handful of people have decided that parent's aren't allowed to make their own decisions about how to raise their children. Buying Happy Meals is not child abuse. . .

Fat, dumb and happy (meal). Isn't that the American way? What, next you'll be telling us that cigarettes are addictive.

lENI, YOU PEOPLE WHO COMPLAIN ABOUT THIS REMIND ME OF LITTLE WHINY KIDS WHO DON'T LIKE THEIR PARENTS TO SET LIMITS OR DISCIPLINE THEM. THIS IS FOR YOUR OWN GOOD. SOUND FAMILIAR? WELL IN THIS CASE, PEOPLE ARE OBVIOUSLY TOO STUPID TO REALIZE WHAT THEY ARE DOING TO THEIR OWN KIDS' HEALTH, AND SINCE WE ARE TRYING TO BRING DOWN THE COST OF HEALTH CARE, WHICH, I HAVE NO DOUBT YOU ALSO OBJECT TO (I.E. IN THE FORM OF HEALTH CARE REFORM), THIS IS ONE WAY OF DOING IT. FORCING JUNK FOOD DEALERS LIKE MCDONALDS TO IMPROVE THE HEALTH QUALITY OF THEIR MEALS.

 


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