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In The News: San Francisco Doesn’t Toy Around!

Posted Aug 13 2010 5:24pm

Fast food KidsEarlier this Summer, the Center for Science in the Public Interest generated headlines and buzz when they announced plans to sue McDonald’s if they continued to use toys to market unhealthy food to children ,referring to the practice as “unfair, deceptive, and illegal.”

California’s Santa Clara county was the first government in the United States to implement their own “no toy” rule (though only in unincorporated areas, meaning Burger King and the like escaped unharmed), and it appears San Francisco is next .

San Francisco’s proposed rule, however, does include incorporated businesses.  Rajiv Bhatia, director of occupational and environmental health for the San Francisco Department of Public Health accurarely explains that “this is not an anti-toy ordinance; this is a pro-healthy-meal ordinance.”

See, toys are allowed in children’s meals considered to be “nutritionally fit”.  What makes a meal nutritionally fit?  Here are the suggested standards:

  • Less than 200 calories for a single item or less than 600 calories for a meal.
  • Less than 480 milligrams of sodium for a single item or 640 milligrams for a meal.
  • Less than 35 percent of its calories derived from fat (unless the fat is contained in nuts, seeds or nut butters, or from a packaged egg or packaged low-fat or reduced-fat cheese.)
  • Less than 10 percent of its calories derived from saturated fats (with the exception of nuts, seeds, packaged eggs or packaged low-fat or reduced-fat cheese.)
  • Less than 0.5 grams of trans fat.
  • Meals must include a half-cup of fruits and three-fourths of a cup of vegetables.
  • Beverages may not have more than 35 percent of their calories from fat or more than 10 percent of their calories from sugar.

Unless most fast-food chains decrease their portion sizes, they do not meet at least one of the above-mentioned guidelines.  My thoughts on the guidelines?

  • I like that not all fats are treated equal (a healthy item that consists of, say, sliced apples and a peanut butter dip would not be disqualified for being “too fatty”)
  • I also like that eggs are not shunned for high cholesterol levels.  Eggs are abundant in nutrients, and the whole “cholesterol in food causes high cholesterol in the blood” theory has been debunked time and time again.
  • Lastly, I like that they serve as motivators for fast food chains to truly revamp their respective children’s menus if they wish to continue promoting them with toys.
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