In a measure that was first introduced in October and voted on today, the so-called “Happy Meal ban” has been passed. This San Fransisco measure limits which meals can include a free toy. Santa Clara County has enacted a similar Happy Meal Ban, despite heavy lobbying of several restaurant associations.
Happy Meal Ban focuses on high-fat meals
The “Happy Meal Ban” passed by San Francisco’s board of supervisors on Tuesday focuses on the nutritional content of a meal. Restaurants are banned from offering toys in certain meals. In order to offer a toy, a meal must have 600 calories or fewer total, including the drink. Less than 35 percent of the calories in the meal can come from fat, as well. Finally, a meal must include a half of a cup of vegetables. In short, in order to offer a free toy, a restaurant has to have a meal that follows basic good nutrition.
Happy Meal Ban does not actually ban meals
Though the Healthy Meal Incentive legislation is being called the “Happy Meal Ban,” that is a misnomer. The Healthy Meal Incentive simply states toys cannot be offered with high-fat, high-sugar meals that do not represent a healthy diet. Opponents of the measure come down on two very distinct sides of the debate. Some say banning the toys is removing consumer choice and an anti-business move. Others argue that parents who cannot say no to their children and help their children make good nutritional choices need education, not legislation. Either way, the city legislation passed with a veto-proof majority.
Healthy Meal Incentive Act following a trend
The Healthy Meal Incentive legislation is not the first legislation to try to control what cities eat. In 2006, New York City passed a ban on all artificial trans-fats in restaurants. After that ban was passed, McDonald’s, Taco Bell, Dunkin Donuts, Burger King, Arby’s, Applebee’s, Cheesecake Factory and thousands of other restaurants quit using trans fats. Even Crisco shortening has been reformulated to eliminate trans fats. Is the Healthy Meal Incentive Act another positive step in limiting the food we eat, or do you think these bans should themselves be banned?