The San Francisco ban on providing free toys to entice children to eat unhealthy foods goes into effect Thursday, but McDonald’s plans to comply with the law by charging
10 cents a toy for their Happy Meals and donating the money to the nonprofit Ronald McDonald House.
Last year, San Francisco became the first major city to ban toys in fast-food meals for children unless the food meets specific nutritional guidelines, such as including at least half a cup of fruits and vegetables.
When the law goes into effect Thursday, the Department of Public Health will begin cracking down on restaurants to ensure compliance. But McDonald’s will simply sell toys for 10 cents instead of giving them away in Happy Meals that comply with the nutritional standards in the law, which was introduced by Supervisor Eric Mar.
Earlier this year, McDonald’s announced plans to sell healthier Happy Meals that include fewer french fries and contain apple slices and low-fat milk. But Mar said the Happy Meals still fall short of the nutritional standards, including not offering both fruits and vegetables.
“We have to keep the pressure on,” Mar said.
He said San Francisco’s local law did contribute to a “sea change” in the fast-food industry, with a number of companies announcing healthier options in their meals as the toy ban for unhealthy foods caught on nationwide.
Scott Rodrick, who owns 10 of the 19 McDonald’s franchises in San Francisco, said charging 10 cents for the toy is “complying with the letter of the law” while also providing “what our customers want.”
Proceeds from the toy sales will go toward construction costs of a Ronald McDonald House, which will provide temporary housing for families with ill children at the new UC San Francisco hospital at the Mission Bay campus.
The law impacts not just McDonald’s, but also others including Subway, Carl’s Jr. and Burger King, which have offered free incentives in their kid’s meals in the past.
“DPH will be communicating with all businesses known to provide free incentives with children’s meals in order to assess their plans and actions to comply with the law,” said Dr. Rajiv Bhatia, a director of environmental health with the Department of Public Health. “Through this assessment, if needed, DPH will advise these restaurants on the steps needed to come into compliance and monitor business actions over time.”
Next year, the department will create a process for people to report possible violators.
Nutritional facts about McDonald’s food:
12 g fat
750 mg sodium
11 g fat
160 mg sodium
10 mg sodium