By a 3-2 vote, the board of supervisors in Santa Clara County, California has passed an ordinance prohibiting free giveaways of promotional toys associated with child-sized meal-deals at fast-food outlets, unless the meals meet certain nutritional standards.
The ban will apply to cheeseburgers, chicken nuggets and other fare containing excessive calories, sodium, fat or carbohydrates.
“What we’re trying to do is de-link the connection between unhealthy food and toys,” said Ken Yeager, the board president, who believes that many kids select their meal based on the toy that accompanies it.
“It’s the toys that they want,” Yeager, who does not have children, told the New York Times. “This ordinance does not attack toys. Toys, in and of themselves, do not make children obese.”
The ban takes effect this month in a county in which 25% of the children are obese. Nationally, between 11% and 18% of children are overweight or obese, with low-income residents affected disproportionately.
In adults, the problem is even more widespread: two-thirds of adults are overweight or obese, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.
McDonald’s spokesperson Walt Riker expressed disappointment with the board’s decision. “Our Happy Meals provide many of the important nutrients that children need,” including zinc, iron and calcium, he said.