Law curbs McDonald’s Happy Meal toys

When I heard about this I knew I wanted to talk about it and when I read the article I knew I couldn’t improve it so I’m going to just put it here.

“LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – San Francisco has become the first major U.S. city to pass a law that cracks down on the popular practice of giving away free toys with unhealthy restaurant meals for children.

San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors passed the law on Tuesday on a veto-proof 8-to-3 vote. It takes effect on December 1.

The law, like an ordinance passed earlier this year in nearby Santa Clara County, would require that restaurant kids’ meals meet certain nutritional standards before they could be sold with toys.

Opponents of the law include the National Restaurant Association and McDonald’s Corp, which used its now wildly popular Happy Meal to pioneer the use of free toys to market directly to children.

“We are extremely disappointed with today’s decision. It’s not what our customers want, nor is it something they asked for,” McDonald’s spokeswoman Danya Proud said in a statement.

“Getting a toy with a kid’s meal is just one part of a fun, family experience at McDonald’s,” Proud said.

The San Francisco law would allow toys to be given away with kids’ meals that have less than 600 calories, contain fruits and vegetables, and include beverages without excessive fat or sugar.

Backers of the ordinance say it aims to promote healthy eating habits while combating childhood obesity.

“Our children are sick. Rates of obesity in San Francisco are disturbingly high, especially among children of color,” said San Francisco Supervisor Eric Mar, who sponsored the measure.

“This is a challenge to the restaurant industry to think about children’s health first and join the wide range of local restaurants that have already made this commitment,” Mar said.


Fifteen percent of American children are overweight or obese — which puts them at risk of developing heart disease, diabetes and cancer, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In some states, the childhood obesity rate is over 30 percent.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest this summer threatened to sue McDonald’s if it did not stop using Happy Meal toys to lure children into its restaurants. A lawyer for that group said it is on track to file the lawsuit in the next several weeks.

McDonald’s debuted the Happy Meal in the United States in 1979 with toys like the “McDoodler” stencil and the “McWrist” wallet. Modern offerings have included themed items from popular films like “Shrek” or sought-after toys like Transformers, Legos or miniature Ty Beanie Babies.

In 2006, the latest year for which data is available, fast-food companies led by McDonald’s spent more than $520 million on advertising and toys to promote meals for children, according to a U.S. Federal Trade Commission report.

When the efforts of other food and beverage companies were included, promotional spending aimed at children topped $1.6 billion.”

What do you guys think of this?

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37 Responses to Law curbs McDonald’s Happy Meal toys

  1. SKL says:

    OK, this makes me really angry. I just don’t know where to start.

    First of all, find me one damn restaurant in the USA that serves only healthy kids’ meals! The standard McD’s happy meal is less fatty than most meals I’ve seen on kids’ menus. So what if it’s not a perfect meal? A restaurant meal is supposed to be a special treat. No child ever died from eating a small order of French Fries! It is just ridiculous to keep blaming McDonald’s for obesity, and I think there’s a hidden agenda somewhere.

    Secondly, what exactly do they mean when they say “directly marketing to children”? How many children have the ability to go to McD’s and buy a Happy Meal, all without their parents’ involvement? How many US children can go up and tell their parents, “we’re eating at McD’s today, like it or not, because I need me some Shrek toys”? Ha! Well, maybe in California, where they are trying to make it illegal to spank. But I don’t think so.

    Next question: how healthy are the school lunches out there? Does every school kid eat a lunch containing no more than 600 calories, fruits and veggies, and beverages without excessive fat and sugar? Yeah, I didn’t think so. The school lunches are making kids fat, and the parents have a lot less control over that than they have over Happy Meals.

    Most of all, the government has no business interfering in free markets. If I want my kid to have a Happy Meal, I’ll buy one. If not, I won’t.

    For the record, I have never bought a Happy Meal or any of the McD toys, even though I take my kids to McDs about once a week nowadays. The girls see the displays, and Mom says “we aren’t buying that,” end of story. Then we eat something relatively less unhealthy and they play on the climbing equipment (which, why aren’t the other chains required to provide exercise equipment if we’re so concerned about obesity?). It’s not that I’m in love with McD’s; I just believe it’s MY CHOICE if I’m going to enter into any kind of contract with any business. If there really are parents who are so irresponsible that they will let their kids eat whatever they want and in whatever quantity, to the point where the children are literally endangered, then the law should do something about those parents.

    Meanwhile, if I were in charge of McD’s, I’d seriously consider leaving California. Screw them. Let them make use of all the “better alternatives” out there, and see how happy people are then. Which makes me wonder – what do the individual voters think of this law? Do they actually want someone to tell them what they can & can’t buy for their kids? I tend to doubt it, but who knows about folks in California?

  2. Ellen says:

    I can only say wow, SKL, what an anger against California. Maybe it is just a start to change things. Because nothing has helped so far. the amount of obese children is still rising. And of course a ban on toys in unhealthy Happy meals will not change this, but it might be a start.

    • SKL says:

      Just happens to be California that is passing these laws. If it were any other state, I’d say the same things.

      • SKL says:

        And my issue is not with geography. It’s with the thought that the government should decide what parents feed their children. That is way over the line.

  3. SKL says:

    The more I think about it, McD’s should do an experiment. Leave California and then start tracking obesity trends. Surely the whole state will become skinny in a matter of months or maybe a few years. Then we will have evidence that happy meal toys are the cause of obesity.

  4. shanef says:

    I’m gonna totally disagree on this one. McDonalds and other fast food resturaunts play a huge role in obesity problems with kids and adults. The reason there doing this is if you ask your kid- Where do you want to eat subway or McDonalds? The kids gonna choose McDonalds because there mascot is a clown, they have playgrounds, and they give away toys in there happy meals. They do this on purpose, to get kids hooked on there food at a very young age. Plus they have the $1 menu, which attracts poor people. That’s why a higher % of the minorities and the poor are overweight.

    • SKL says:

      Why would you ask your kid if you didn’t think eating at McDonald’s was a good idea?

    • SKL says:

      I also take issue with the idea that marketing a legal product is somehow unethical. But if it is, shouldn’t we be complaining about every other company that markets products/services targeted to kids? Dozens of candy and snack commercials come immediately to mind. What will the next law abolish? I am sure it depends on which companies have been supporting which politicians.

    • Joy says:

      I don’t agree Shane. Jason and Toby liked the little toys in the happy meal but that’s not why they wanted to go to McDonald’s. They wanted the fries and I don’t think there should be a law telling me what I can feed my kids or what they should get as treats or not. That’s up to me as a parent. This ticks me right off. So if a kid get a cavity do they not get to pick a toy out of the dentist toy box? Also you have the “healthy” competing against the “unhealthy” and you get a punishment for them? Maybe there should be a happy meal with a toy and one without and it could be up to the parent. Laws like this can’t start. Perkins has a wishing well and a lot of other restaurants give treats to kids.

      Sorry Shane. Normally I don’t say anything but this bugs me.

    • Nikki says:

      Fast food places play the biggest role in obesity?! Really? You do have the option to not eat there. You do have the option to go take your child else where. I am so tired of people not taking responsibility for THEIR own actions. If my son had a problem with being over weight, as a parent I would not feed them Mc.Donalds often. That is my responsibility, not Mc.Donalds!

  5. SKL says:

    If people believe that the government should have a role in curbing childhood obesity, then the government should start with government programs. Change the food stamp program so it can only be used to buy whole foods, for example. (Or just distribute healthy food instead of food stamps.) Don’t let people use welfare debit cards at fast food restaurants (or really, any restaurants, since very few of them specialize in healthy food). Re-vamp the school lunch and breakfast programs, and subsidized daycare menus. Don’t let government subsidies go to businesses that will mainly sell unhealthy food.

    Along with the above, the government may feel free to run info campaigns providing nutritional information to citizens, e.g., the food pyramid, the fact that fresh broccoli is healthier than fried chicken and ribs (whether cooked at home or elsewhere), etc. Maybe even subsidize some inner city greenhouses and farmers’ markets.

    But the government should not be tampering with transactions between private citizens, except in very extreme cases and after the government has first made all the changes it can make on its own turf.

  6. Laura says:

    When I first heard about this – and admittedly, I’d been hearing about it for years, that “people” were pushing for it – I was p**ed right off. For all the same reasons that SKL is/was. This is NOT the providence of the government!

    First and foremost, it is the parent’s prerogative to buy the Happy Meal in the first place. Second, and this has been overlooked by everyone, parents can ask that the toy NOT be included!! I think they’ll even knock the price down a smidge. I know you can buy the toys separately – I’ve done it when they had ones that I wanted (yes, ones that *I* wanted – adults collect them, too).

    I’d like to add this to SKL’s responses – How many of the schools that the SF Government is in charge of, have recess? PE classes? For Pete’s sake, I take Josh to McD’s, and I have to TIE him to the chair with, “you finish your burger/chicken nuggets before you go on the playground”! He does not have to finish his fries, and usually, if he’s got apples? They’re gone before the burger/chicken, and in that case, I let him leave a bit of those. He plays far more than he eats, when we’re there.

    I think, if they don’t take SKL’s advice and leave Cali – which was one of my thoughts, too – they should offer the toys at the price of $.01, with the purchase of *any* meal.

  7. mssc54 says:


  8. Joy says:

    Sorry Ellen but California seems to be a hot topic all on it’s own and I don’t hate it but a lot of goofy idea’s come from the people running that state. Not the people who live in it so please don’t take it personally. I mean seriously, the number of times I’ve listened to Paul rant and rave about the people controlling “how” they can treat their lumber. MILLIONS of times. Really, he rants and RAVES!!!!!

    I agree with most of what’s been said. I don’t feel, especially in this case, that the government should even stick their toe in this water. Anyone who really thinks the kids want that toy is nuts. They play with them for about 2 minutes and it could get lost in the deep dark cushions of the car never to be asked about again. I think it’s the element of just getting it.

    I feel anyone wanting or needing to blame obesity on McDonald’s has a lot of screws loose. My brother and I ate at McDonald’s as kids and neither one of us were obese. What about obese people before there was fast food? Don’t forget, people were always fat or thin or had zits or didn’t. How can you blame fast food is beyond me.

    Another thing that was mentioned on the news is poor people eat there everyday. Can someone please tell me how that happens? How can poor people eat out everyday? Isn’t that where the law should be? You could buy a loaf of bread and pack of bologna for what a happy meal costs. Or a bag of apples. Or any number of healthy food so who’s choice is it to eat here??? Also, Shane mentioned the $1 meal. There’s no toy in there so if poor people are buying them, they’re buying them with no toy so there shoots that theory in the butt.

    Plain and simple, this should be up to the parents. Maybe that kids raked leaves all day and this little toy is the reward. We don’t know. How can a blanket law like this even be thought about? Senior citizens but happy meals and like Laura said, I know a LOT of grown ups who collect those toys. Check out eBay for those once. You can bet none of those collections were done by kids.

    • Nikki says:

      Oh Ma I could go on for DAYS about the issue of unhealthy food being cheaper. Not only that but how about cook a well balance meal instead of going through the drive thru every day! I have nothing against eating Mc.Donalds in moderation. I KNOW people who complain that it’s too expensive to eat healthy. You are right, a bag of apples is cheaper than a bag of cookies. A bag of carrots is cheaper than a box of fruit snacks, so don’t sell that crap to me, because I’m not buying it! Figuratively and literally speaking.

      And what happened to the rights of businesses being able to sell their products? How does the govt have the right to go to a business and tell them, you can’t sell that?! But we have stores selling marijuana. Hmmm??? Doesn’t make much sense to me.

  9. Joy says:

    How freaking stupid does it sound to say that kids are obese because McDonald’s gives away a plastic toy in a little bag (which used to be a little box that the kids could carry around. They were really good for swimming lesson days)?

    We should have then outlawed them when they first opened up.

    I don’t for ONE second believe this whole issue. Of all the crap people eat and they’re trying to lay this at ONE restaurants feet. Amazing! The people have given McDonald’s a lot of power in their lives. I’m fat and I NEVER eat at McDonald’s!!

  10. SKL says:

    And again, not hating on California, but isn’t that the very same state that is always at the forefront of legalizing marijuana? How is it that they think people have enough sense to make decisions when it comes to a harmful drug, but not when it comes to food?

  11. starlaschat says:

    It’s lively over here. :+) I’d like an egg mcmuffin it’s before 10 am. First off I don’t agree with more laws I think people should have choices. That being said I wish the larger corperation like Cococola and other soft drinks and some large restaurant chains would care more about the ingredients they put in their products and less about the bottom line of profit. I like an occasional junk food fries and a shake and I like that I know that what I order will taste just like I remember and not like tofu. It’s a tough thing as a society I think we stuggle with wanting to be healthy educating ourselves as to things like how much sodium is in fast food. I had no idea how much salt was in junk food and frozen food for that matter until recently. The toys I have heard some have lead and are made in China if kids are putting these toys in their mouths that could be a concern. Keep the toys and make them here with no lead.

  12. Nikki says:

    I am late getting here, so I am going to comment without reading all the comments first. So forgive me if I have repeated something someone else has said already.

    What happened to parental responsibly? Is it a secret that Mc.Donalds isn’t the healthiest option for any of us? I don’t know any kid who goes there to eat for the toy! I understand the govt needs to regulate some things but a toy in a Happy Meal? Really?! There are far worse things going on, that the govt turns a blind eye to. Not only does this, step by step take our choices away, but it seems so damn minimal I could just laugh. It’s a TOY, and not even a decent one. Bailey did enjoy getting them when he was little, but it would only last a few hours, then it’d either break or become boring and in the bottom on the toy box. If there was no toy, it wouldn’t have stopped him from eating their food. I just do not see how this could help. If they are going to regulate anything, why not the food? And even then, sometimes we just want a greasy nasty cheeseburger, and that as an American is my damn right! I don’t see how taking a toy away is going to stop kids from eating there. How about parents do their job and not feed them unhealthy food every day. THAT would lower the obesity rate, not taking away a toy!

    Now that I put my 2 cents in, I’ll go read the above comments, and I’m sure I’ll be back. 🙂

  13. Nikki says:

    All this talk about Mc.Donalds makes me want a double cheeseburger and fries! LOL

  14. Gary says:

    I think this is another case of the government sticking their nose where it doesn’t belong. Let people make their own decisions for their kids!

  15. Deidre says:

    Gee we need an ordinance because either, A. parents are too stupid to know what to feed junior. Or B Parents live in the scorching food desert where they cannot find anything other than a Happy Meal to feed junior. I have witnessed children taking the quote healthy lunch and pitching the entire tray of food into the garbage, the reason because it tastes like garbage. No law is going to fix that, when are people going to get the fact you can no more legislate morality, than you can legislate a healthy lifestyle. Until you change the way people view their lives from a non stop party to responsibility, nothing will change. You are either going to work on the family, mom dad grandma grandpa and have them raise their kids or it is just going to be the same thing going forward. Kids get up have breakfast at HOME, lunch at school. Dinner at 6, is your homework done? in before it get dark, otherwise I’m coming looking for you. In bed before Midnight it’s simple stuff but the routine goes with you for the rest of your life. In the past grandma and grandpa would step in to help, now their down playing shuffleboard at some retirement village. Unless the family is brought back and encouraged nothing Washington does will change a dam thing.

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