San Francisco Bans Happy Meals

In yet another move designed to take the fun out of being a kid, San Francisco has banned the Happy Meal.

San Francisco has taken steps to keep its children safe from meals with toys in them:

San Francisco’s board of supervisors has voted, by a veto-proof margin, to ban most of McDonald’s Happy Meals as they are now served in the restaurants.

The measure will make San Francisco the first major city in the country to forbid restaurants from offering a free toy with meals that contain more than set levels of calories, sugar and fat.

The ordinance would also require restaurants to provide fruits and vegetables with all meals for children that come with toys.

“We’re part of a movement that is moving forward an agenda of food justice,” said Supervisor Eric Mar, who sponsored the measure. “From San Francisco to New York City, the epidemic of childhood obesity in this country is making our kids sick, particularly kids from low income neighborhoods, at an alarming rate. It’s a survival issue and a day-to-day issue.”

Food justice? What in the heck is that?

Apparently, it involves something like this:

Under the ordinance, scheduled to take effect in December 2011, restaurants may include a toy with a meal if the food and drink combined contain fewer than 600 calories, and if less than 35% of the calories come from fat.

San Francisco follows in the footsteps of Santa Clara County, California which passed a similar ordinance in April, and joins in a war against the Happy Meal that was first declared by the Center for Science In The Public Interest, also known as the food police by their critics.

Here’s an idea for parents, just say no. You’re the one who controls the meals your child eats, don’t feed them fast food if you don’t think it’s good for them, and don’t give in to every toddler tantrum for Happy Meal toy. Also, stop trying to take the fun out of childhood. That’s what adults do.

FILED UNDER: Law and the Courts, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. James Joyner says:

    Absolutely ridiculous. But, hey, it’s San Francisco.

  2. Matt D says:

    “an agenda of food justice”

    Legal or not, somebody’s using the demon weed.

  3. PD Shaw says:

    That’s one unflattering picture, but at least she hasn’t put ice in her Macallan 12.

  4. Tano says:

    It may be misguided, and the effect may take some fun out of childhood, but it is an absurd slander to claim, as you do, that this was designed to take the fun out of childhood.

    It was pretty obviously designed to incentivize restaurants toward providing healthier fast food – a very good thing, in fact, given the epidemic of obesity in this country, especially amongst the young, and the implications that will have for their future quality of life, and for the future healthcare expenditures of the society as a whole.

    And the “fun” of getting a toy with your meal can continue – just offer a kids meal that is a bit healthier. What on earth is wrong with that?

    Do you object to laws against selling tobacco to children as well? Do you think such laws are just nanny-statism, and it should be left to parents to just say no to their kids who may want to try a cigarette? But merchants should have their freedom respected, their freedom to entice kids into buying smokes any way they can think of?

  5. Franklin says:

    There’s no way to cure bad parenting. And this does nothing except prevent good parents from providing a little treat once in awhile. My kids get to go to McDonald’s maybe once every three months, and a Happy Meal isn’t going to kill them. In fact, it might even make them happy, which is a good thing.

  6. wr says:

    Yes, parents should just say no. After all, it’s not like there’s a multi-billion dollar industry whose profits depend on getting children to eat food that is terrible for their health, and which spends hundreds of millions every year blasting commercials at those children.

    So we pit individual parents against billions in corporate pressure and expect a fair fight. No surprise from Republicans. It’s the same justification for wiping out unions — the notion that there’s no reason that, say, Wal-Mart and one greeter can’t negotiate the greeter’s salary as equals.

  7. PD Shaw says:

    I’m not sure this has much effect on McDonald’s. Just looking at their different Happy Meal options, only about 20% of them would be over 600 calories. It’s the cheese on the burger and the chocalate in the milk that appear to be the main problem.

    But consider this: my kid wants a hamburger, small fries and a 1% lowfat chocalate milk (650 calories) and I have to tell her that if she wants a toy she needs to drink a sprite (590 calories). I’d rather she drink the milk, can I pay a sin tax and get the stupid toy?

  8. Tano says:

    Franklin writes:

    “And this does nothing except prevent good parents from providing a little treat once in awhile.”

    How does it do that? The law prevents McD’s from giving away a toy with the meal, if it is as unhealthy as a Happy Meal. It does not prevent McD’s from selling the meal without the toy.

    You have to read these posts carefully sometimes, because an accurate representation of the truth of the matter does not seem to be the prime concern…

  9. Tano says:

    “And this does nothing except prevent good parents from providing a little treat once in awhile.”

    And while we are at it….

    Not only is this statement wrong for the reasons I outlined in the above comment, it is also wrong in the sense that it is ridiculous to state that the laws “does nothing” except impact good parents. How can you make such a claim? You may be a good parent, but there are plenty of poor parents out there who will routinely give into their child’s whining for a meal with a toy – and take advantage of McD’s offer to cook dinner for their children. The law obviously effects these bad parents as well – and given that they probably feed their kids at McD’s a lot more often than you do, it effects that to a much greater extent than it effects you.

  10. G.A.Phillips says:

    Why not just ban McDonald’s, and Ice lolololol….

  11. JKB says:

    So here’s how it works. They’ll offer a crappy meal that children won’t eat with a free toy. Then they offer a meal deal that kids will eat and separately the toy for a $1 or something. Problem solved. Except now, the parents are a dollar poorer. Or they can change back to it being acceptable to publicly spank your child and then you can make them eat the crappy meal.

    Personally, I think someone should arrange a large school field trip for kids to see a Board of Supervisor meeting, then let the kids meet out some kid justice for all this food justice they are getting.

  12. george says:

    The left and the right are taking turns seeing who can be the biggest nanny states. The war on drugs is now being joined by the war on fats, because there’s no way you can trust people to decide for themselves what they can put in their or their children’s bodies.

  13. John Personna says:

    I assume that Sprite is 590 calories because it is not “small” anymore.

    The best food police law would be to move back sizes, and let people who really want a double large order two of them. That is, if I wanted to play at food police.

  14. Tano says:

    “…there’s no way you can trust people to decide for themselves what they can put in their or their children’s bodies.”

    We see the results of that all around us. We have a flabby, porky, physically soft society. And all of us end up paying for it, in medical insurance costs (yeah – even with totally private insurance).

  15. PD Shaw says:

    It’s a 12 oz. Sprite, which apparently has the same amount of calories as an 8 oz. 1% low fat white milk. Here are nutritional guides for the various Happy Meals:

    http://nutrition.mcdonalds.com/nutritionexchange/Happy_Meals_Nutrition_List.pdf

    Treating empty-calorie drinks as equivalent to milk products is not this parent’s idea of a good diet. The focus on calories as a standard appears to be derived from adult concerns over their own health.

  16. Steve Verdon says:

    Food justice? What in the heck is that?

    Let me translate Doug, “We not only know what is best for you, but your kids too and we’ll ram our beliefs down your throat whether you like or even if its not healthy for your child.” Basically, it is something you hear from a Statist that lives in the U.S.

    And the “fun” of getting a toy with your meal can continue – just offer a kids meal that is a bit healthier. What on earth is wrong with that?

    What if my son has been eating healthy all week? What if he says on Saturday after morning practice he’d like to go to McDonalds and fire down 2 egg mcmuffins, 4 hash browns and some pancakes? Nope…here comes the food police: a child his age should eat no more than 537.856 calories in a meal! The implication being: you’re a bad parent if you let your child eat that garbage.

    [Side Note: My son is a competitive swimmer, he swims everyday of the week for 1.5 hours and every other Saturday for 2 hours, he is also growing, his caloric intake needs to be sky high and he is fantastic shape. So yeah, if he asked for a breakfast like the above, I’d let him.]

    Do you object to laws against selling tobacco to children as well? Do you think such laws are just nanny-statism, and it should be left to parents to just say no to their kids who may want to try a cigarette?

    Technically…yes, they are nanny-state laws. Maybe the do lots of good, but that doesn’t change the fact that it is the nanny state at work. And I’d advise that such laws can lead to further laws down the road that are far less appealing. I know it is rather unrelated, but when looking at Kelo you see almost every legal scholar saying, “Oh you could see that one coming for years.”

  17. John Personna says:

    Food chemistry is hard, PD. Everybody over-focusses on calories.

    12 oz. probably is more than 1 child’s serving though

  18. Tano says:

    “What if he says on Saturday after morning practice he’d like to go to McDonalds and fire down 2 egg mcmuffins, 4 hash browns and some pancakes? Nope…here comes the food police:”

    And in what way, pray tell, does this law prevent your child from eating that?
    You are simply lying when you claim that the “food police” are stopping you from buying such a meal for your kid.

    “Do you object to laws against selling tobacco to children as well?
    Technically…yes,”

    Good. You get a gold star for consistency. And the absurdity of your position is revealed for all.

    “And I’d advise that such laws can lead to further laws ”

    Yeah, we know. Everything is a slippery slope to something else. When you have no rational argument, there is always the slippery slope.

  19. glenn says:

    Simple solution to circumvent the “Granola State” mentality: McDonald’s should sell the toys for a penny. A penny is a nominal sum, to be sure, but that means the meal does not include a free toy.

  20. Drew says:

    Next on OTB, Uncle Tano on his decision to give up sex, and what it means for you.

  21. Tano says:

    Oh, and Steve – I followed your link to your picture of your child.
    With all due respect and all, don’t you think this kid is a bit old to be heartbroken about not getting a toy with his McD’s meal?

  22. Tano says:

    Drew, please elaborate. That strikes me as one of the dumbest, and most obtuse statements in quite a while. What on earth are you talking about?

  23. george says:

    “We see the results of that all around us. We have a flabby, porky, physically soft society. And all of us end up paying for it, in medical insurance costs (yeah – even with totally private insurance).”

    Legislating good eating habits is likely to turn out as well as the war on drugs, and for the same reasons. If you want to improve the health of society, the path lies through education, and subsidizing sport and recreation, not by trying to take easily manufactured items illegal. I don’t even think it has much to do with morality in either direction, it simply isn’t likely to work, and the further the gov’t goes in restrictions, the more expensive it will become.

    This is just another example of pissing into the wind.

  24. Tano says:

    “Legislating good eating habits is likely to turn out as well…”

    Groan. What is with you people who insist on having these fantasy arguments?

    Who is advocating the legislation of eating habits?

    The issue here is marketing. Marketing gimmicks aimed at children. Large multinational corporations are trying to get kids to pressure their parents to buy them meals, by offering a toy.
    The law is not even trying to make that illegal. All the law does is to say to the corporation, if you run a marketing campaign aimed at kids, by giving them toys, then the product you sell them should meet some minimal nutritional requirements.

    There is nothing about preventing McD’s from selling anything they want to sell. And there certainly is nothing in the law that says anything about what your eating habits should be.

  25. wr says:

    George — Education is great, but how much education can we supply, and how can it ever compete with the “education” that McDonald’s and other food corporations supply at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars.

    It’s fascinating that all these “conservatives” keep seeing this as a war by government against their freedom, as if America’s children have all decided on their own and with no prompting that McDonalds is the greatest thing on earth.

  26. george says:

    “It’s fascinating that all these “conservatives” keep seeing this as a war by government against their freedom, as if America’s children have all decided on their own and with no prompting that McDonalds is the greatest thing on earth.”

    Conservatives aren’t particularly worried about freedom – the war on drugs, or the continuous attempts to bring the church into school (see creationism) show, or the Patriot Act for that matter.

    Neither are the liberals, who haven’t repealed the Patriot Act, continue the war on drugs, and add new restrictions.

  27. Drew says:

    Your limited world experience is showing, Tano. Not surprising. You should Google the reference.

  28. Tano says:

    Actually Drew, I have better things to do with my time than to research the obscure connections that rattle around in your brain. If you can’t explain in a succinct manner how regulating marketing to children relates to my sex life, then maybe its better not to even make the comment.

  29. Drew says:

    “Actually Drew, I have better things to do with my time than to research the obscure connections that rattle around in your brain. If you can’t explain in a succinct manner how regulating marketing to children relates to my sex life, then maybe its better not to even make the comment.”

    Your capitulation is noted for the record.

  30. Steve Verdon says:

    Tano,

    You are ignoring the “mission creep” that is all too frequent with our laws. What starts out as a possibly reasonably idea–e.g. periodic eminent domain for the “public good” then leads to eminent domain for private gain. Sure, my kid isn’t going to be upset over no more happy meals. But we tend to not stop with the reasonable. Legally speaking we are like the person who thinks, a little bit of salt tastes good on corn on the cob…why lots of salt on all kinds of other foods is great too!

    I know its easier to pick out just the parts of the argument you like to attack, but my point isn’t that this law is bad, but that it is setting a bad precedent and down the road it could lead to outcomes nobody really likes….well except for narrow special interests.

    Good. You get a gold star for consistency. And the absurdity of your position is revealed for all.

    Nice job jackass. My response is yes it is technically a nanny state law and probably does good, but that such laws often take on a life of their own and this is your response. But you focus on just the first part.

    Oh, and Steve – I followed your link to your picture of your child.
    With all due respect and all, don’t you think this kid is a bit old to be heartbroken about not getting a toy with his McD’s meal?

    I never said he did. Look at what kind of person you are who can’t go with what is written in plain english right in front of him. Speaks volumes about your own bizarre psychology.

    Yeah, we know. Everything is a slippery slope to something else. When you have no rational argument, there is always the slippery slope.

    This is how our legal system works. “Oh, its just a bit more than that last ruling, okay sure.” As I noted the Kelo decision was merely a continuation of legal ruling after legal ruling expanding to greater and greater degrees the power of eminent domain. What safe guards are there to keep that kind of mission creep from happening here? Keep in mind that the people backing this law have an agenda for “food justice” that they want to move forward. This law is not the end.

    Next on OTB, Uncle Tano on his decision to give up sex, and what it means for you.

    Why Drew are you suggesting that Tano is an overbearing busy-body who runs around annoying just about everyone with that reference to Jimmy Carter’s secretary of health education and welfare, Joseph Califano?

    (Took about 10 seconds to track down, and a funny comment too Drew)

    Conservatives aren’t particularly worried about freedom….Neither are the liberals….

    Well said george, well said.

    The issue here is marketing. Marketing gimmicks aimed at children. Large multinational corporations are trying to get kids to pressure their parents to buy them meals, by offering a toy.

    Or company A is trying to steal business from company B by offering the toy. Irrespective the parents were going to buy from either A or B and yes, the meals from either establishment might have issues in regards to nutritional content.

    There is nothing about preventing McD’s from selling anything they want to sell.

    Yet.

  31. Drew says:

    “Why Drew are you suggesting that Tano is an overbearing busy-body who runs around annoying just about everyone with that reference to Jimmy Carter’s secretary of health education and welfare, Joseph Califano?”

    Ding! Ding! Ding! We have a winner! You get to choose behind door number 1, 2 or 3!

    I bet Tano is a blast at parties………

  32. Tano says:

    “Nice job jackass.”

    Wow. You started off all rational and intellegent, but then what,,,you just can’t help yourself, eh?

    “it is technically a nanny state law and probably does good, but that such laws often take on a life of their own and this is your response.”

    Right. Why is that a jackass response? Your thought process here seems to be that even though the law might be a good idea, since you can put it in the category of “nanny-statism” it should be opposed. That is precisely the absurdity of being an ideologue. When an ideological analysis of an issue yields a position at odds with common sense, then the ideology should be adjudged faulty. And either modified or discarded.

    And your slippery slope argument is hardly convincing. We all know that some positions can really be the first step down a slippery slope to a terrible world. But other positions (probably a large majority) are not a step to anywhere else. We know these things because we have arguments like this all the time. Should people be forbidden to have surface-to-air missiles? Is that a slippery slope to taking away a hunter’s rifle? Should the government establish standards for food safety, or is that a step toward legislating your menu?

    Any and every position that can ever be taken by anyone could be framed in such a way as to claim it is the first step toward something terrible. You need to do far more than just make the assertion – you need to demonstrate in what manner the slope actually exists.

    For instance – is there anyone, anywhere in the entire country, elected official or not, who has ever advocated anything that could in any way prevent you from buying your son a nice meal at McD’s along the lines you outlined? Or is this vision of the bottom of the supposed slippery slope entirely a fantasy on your part? (the answer is, yes – it is a total fabrication).

    “I never said he did.”

    But what then was the point of the reference at all? There is nothing in this law that even begins to speak to the issue of what a father can feed his son. It does not even address the issue of what a restaurant can sell. It only addresses how meals can be marketed to kids by using toys. So it seemed pretty clear that your son would be lamenting the loss of the toy, else what was the point you were trying to make by invoking his example?

    What safe guards are there to keep that kind of mission creep from happening here?”

    Where is there even a road, let alone a slope, that connects an issue of marketing toys to children with some limitation on what your son can eat?
    (let alone my sex life – if you want to be supportive of that creep and whatever his point was….)

    Maybe part of the problem here is that an ideologue, like yourself, has become so alienated from your own inherent common sense, by deducing positions from your ideological model, that you assume that your fellow citizens have also lost all common sense and are similarly adrift in a world in which any false step must inevitably lead off some cliff.

    The good news is that we can do a pretty good job in discriminating between good ideas and bad ideas, and picking out those places along the various roads we take where we say – this far and no further.

  33. John Burgess says:

    Nuke San Francisco. Do it now. Wait until January to nuke Sacramento, after Moonbeam takes office.

    The country will be grateful, perhaps the world.

  34. John Personna says:

    Why John, you afraid Nor Cal will become a beacon of justice and light?

    If you think they’ll fail, you are better off keeping them as a case study.

  35. Franklin says:

    Tano: “How does it do that? The law prevents McD’s from giving away a toy with the meal, if it is as unhealthy as a Happy Meal. It does not prevent McD’s from selling the meal without the toy.”

    I considered the ‘treat’ to be both the meal and the toy. Don’t go all faux outrage on my “misleading” statement, which was nothing of the sort. Christ, I’m probably on your side for 70% of the issues that come up, but sometimes I question whether I should ever be on your side because you’re so whiny (perhaps you’re a result of bad parents as well). Let me give you some advice: you’ll never convince somebody of anything with the way you argue. Sorry.

    Tano: “Not only is this statement wrong for the reasons I outlined in the above comment, it is also wrong in the sense that it is ridiculous to state that the laws “does nothing” except impact good parents.”

    It simply WILL NOT FIX bad parenting. Sorry, you simply can’t legislate that away. Bad parents can’t get a Happy Meal? They’ll just go buy crap somewhere else instead. And perhaps give a good backhand to the kid for whining. Sorry, but despite your protestations, this is the purest and worst kind of nanny “statism.”

  36. Alex Knapp says:

    I wish that libertarians put in a quarter of the effort of railing against torture and the surveillance state as they do against innocuous intrusions of this nature….

  37. Tano says:

    “It simply WILL NOT FIX bad parenting.”

    Who ever said that its goal is to fix bad parenting?

    Its goal seems to me to be to restrain powerful corporate fast food chains from marketing unhealthy food to children. They can still sell it. They can still market it to adults. They can still market meals to kids. They just have to market meals that are a step or two up from junk food if the target of the marketing is kids.

    Your argument seems to be that since it will not solve all problems relating to the issue of childhood nutrition, as that interfaces with parental assumption of responsibility, then its somehow a bad thing. No one suffers from the illusion that you can legislate away bad parenting. But you can legislate away irresponsible and destructive corporate marketing tactics, and that is all this bill is.

    “this is the purest and worst kind of nanny “statism.””

    I don’t see it as nanny statism at all. The target of the law is NOT you, it is NOT your children. There is nothing in the law that has the government acting like a nanny, telling you what you can or cannot eat. Or what you should or should not eat. That is a gross distortion of the issue, that Doug set into motion with the title of this piece, and a hell of a lot of you commenters who seem far more interested in running with a few stereotypical rants, rather than considering the actual issue on the table.

    The law is about regulating marketing to children. There is nothing in the least bit that is novel, or even controversial about government regulation applied to businesses when those businesses target children. This is about control of corporate behavior, not about the government making dietary decisions for people.

  38. anjin-san says:

    > But, hey, it’s San Francisco.

    Yep. San Francisco. Where we create the wealth that pays for much of the rest of the country.

  39. anjin-san says:

    > But, hey, it’s San Francisco.

    Yes, San Francisco. Where most of the technology that allows you to have not so shining moments like this was created.

  40. G.A.Phillips says:

    ***Nuke San Francisco. Do it now. Wait until January to nuke Sacramento, after Moonbeam takes office.

    The country will be grateful, perhaps the world.***

    Racoon city like a ***********!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  41. wr says:

    Wonder how the righties here would react if a liberal suggesting the mass murder of everyone in, say, Louisvill because we thought their politics were wrong. Seems to me that would be the only story on Fox for the next eight weeks. But it’s okay to advocate the destruction of a liberal city, because you guys aren’t elitists. Is that about right, GA?

  42. G.A.Phillips says:

    ****But it’s okay to advocate the destruction of a liberal city*** lol, dude I was making a Zombie movie joke off of what someone else worte, lol……..

    I don’t want to nuke liberals citys, lol……………

  43. anjin-san says:

    Well, let’s not forget what Bill O’Reilly, one of the leading voice on the right said:

    And if Al Qaeda comes in here and blows you up, we’re not going to do anything about it. We’re going to say, look, every other place in America is off limits to you, except San Francisco. You want to blow up the Coit Tower? Go ahead.

    A great American. It’s ok for terrorists to blow up women & children because you don’t agree with the political views of some people in SF.

  44. george says:

    “A great American. It’s ok for terrorists to blow up women & children because you don’t agree with the political views of some people in SF.”

    We’re just lucky to have someone like Bill O’Reilly around who’s willing to take on the heavy burden of judging everyone 🙂

  45. john personna says:

    Tano, it’s easy to see how Steve’s philosophy works out when everyone is a rational and self-controlled individual. Everyone works, exercises, avoids too many McDonald’s meals, funds their retirement accounts, and so on.

    Since everyone (demonstrably) isn’t really like that, we have at least two choices. We can make it a morality play, one in which bad actors suffer (and their children), or we can try to shape behavior. (Even “shaping” we have a choice to do it with laws or just with social feedback.)

    When you get out to t he really right wing, I think they just don’t care. If you grow up obese, that’s just your parent’s fault. Fault assigned, they can feel superior.

  46. george says:

    “When you get out to t he really right wing, I think they just don’t care. If you grow up obese, that’s just your parent’s fault. Fault assigned, they can feel superior.”

    Um, the right wing is very heavy on shaping behavior … just sayin’

  47. john personna says:

    Certain kinds George, certain kinds.

    It’s the classic two-axis thing. Economic freedom and social freedom.

  48. Drew and Steve, wrestling with the pigs just annoys them and gets you filthy. Why bother?

  49. Grewgills says:

    I propose a national solution to this problem that can make the food police and the libertarians happy, stop subsidizing corn.