McDonald’s to Halt Free Happy Meal Toys in San Francisco

McDonald’s Corp., the world’s largest restaurant chain, will stop giving out Hello Kitty figurines or any other toys with its Happy Meals in San Francisco starting tomorrow because of a new city ordinance.

“A law was passed recently which means we cannot give away a free toy with our Happy Meals” at the 19 McDonald’s stores in San Francisco, Danya Proud, a spokeswoman, said in an e-mailed statement today. Beginning tomorrow, parents will have the option to buy a toy separately for 10 cents when they purchase a Happy Meal or Mighty Kids Meal, she said.

Restaurant meals in San Francisco can’t include a free toy unless they have less than 600 calories, contain fruits and vegetables and have a beverage that isn’t excessively sugary or fatty, according to the City and County of San Francisco website.

The city’s Healthy Meal Incentive law seeks to reduce childhood obesity and help kids adopt healthier eating habits. About 12.5 million, or 17 percent of U.S. children and adolescents ages two to 19, are considered obese, almost triple the rate in 1980, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“This clearly illustrates that McDonald’s is feeling the public pressure,” said Sara Deon, campaign director at Corporate Accountability International, a Boston-based group that advocates that companies act in the public interest.

“We’ll continue to see cities and towns across the country address this,” she said.

Legislation pending in Michigan and New York also would ban eateries from distributing toys with meals that don’t meet certain nutritional standards.

Chocolate Milk

McDonald’s Happy Meals usually consist of a cheeseburger, hamburger or Chicken McNuggets along with fries, apple slices and a drink. The Oak Brook, Illinois-based company started offering fat-free chocolate milk as a beverage option recently.

In July, McDonald’s said it would start putting apple slices and smaller packets of fries in Happy Meals in the U.S. this year. All 14,000 U.S. locations are expected to have the apples in the first quarter of next year, the company said. The change reduces calories in kids’ meals by 20 percent.

Jack in the Box Inc., a San Diego-based fast-food restaurant, pulled toys from its kids’ meals in June. The 2,200-store chain also began serving 70-calorie apple bites with caramel in its kids’ combos this year.

Burger King Holdings Inc., owned by 3G Capital Inc., and Yum! Brands Inc.’s Taco Bell restaurants give away toys in children’s meals.

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