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Jack in the Box stops including toys in kids' meals [UPDATED]

June 20, 2011 |  6:10 pm

AppleCrmlBites In a move that has drawn praise from nutrition advocates, Jack in the Box has stopped offering toys with meals aimed at children, a leading restaurant industry publication said this week.

Nation's Restaurant News reports that the nation's fifth-largest hamburger chain has posted signs in its restaurants letting parents know that trinkets will no longer be included in kids' meals. 

In a news release, Jack in the Box also said it has added a new food choice for kids: apple bits with caramel that clock in at 70 calories per serving -- fewer than the apple dippers served at McDonald's.

Tracy Dunn, director of marketing and promotions for the chain, said the apple side dish was just one healthful option for kids on its menu.

“Jack in the Box offers a lot of variety with our Kid's Combos, from grilled or crispy chicken strips, a grilled cheese sandwich and hamburger to low-fat milk, juice and fountain beverages,” Dunn said.

Nutrition advocates nationwide are pressuring fast food companies to stop giving out toys to children, saying the practice makes it too tempting for kids to want to eat fast food and contributes to the epidemic of childhood obesity.

California's San Francisco and Santa Clara counties have enacted so-called Happy Meal bans, which prohibit restaurants from offering toys to children with meals that are high in calories, sugar, salt and fat. 

Nick Guroff, spokesman for Corporate Accountability International, which supports the toy bans and has repeatedly urged McDonald's to stop marketing to children, said his organization was pleased that Jack in the Box has stopped providing toys.

"It's certainly a sign McDonald's competitors see a market opportunity in differentiating from the industry leader and that campaigning by health advocates is changing the marketing landscape for the industry at large," Guroff said.

Jack in the Box did not return a call seeking comment for this story.

[UPDATE: Jack in the Box confirmed the story, saying that the company pulled the toys when they added the apple bits to their menu. The point, said spokesman Brian Luscomb, is to offer kids meals as a convenience to parents, but the chain does not market to children.

"Rather than promote a toy we've focused on the quality of products in our Kid's Meals, like a grilled cheese sandwich on sourdough, grilled or crispy chicken strips, or a hamburger," Luscomb said. "We believe that providing these kinds of options is more appealing to a parent than packaging a toy with lower-quality fare."] 

RELATED:

Fast food industry is quietly defeating Happy Meal bans

Supporters of Happy Meal ban predict movement will spread

It's a sad day for Happy Meals in Santa Clara County 

Jack in the Box isn't springing back from downturn

-- Sharon Bernstein

Photo: Jack in the Box has added apple bits with caramel to its menu. Credit: Jack in the Box

 

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