Like many a health conscious politician before him, a Manhattan city councilman will introduce legislation today barring toys from happy meals that don't achieve a certain health standard. Councilman Ben Kallos's bill would ban tchotchkes in kids's meals with calorie counts over 500 and sodium counts over 600 milligrams, the Daily News reports. Fine, but deprive kids of their paper crowns and there may be a protest. A tiny, adorable, squeaky-voiced protest.
"Throughout the fast food industry, you're seeing that toys are being linked to meals," Kallos explained. "And as a result, we have a very high obesity rate." Kallos says the allure of the cheap toy was so great that he'd beg his mother to buy him Happy Meals from McDonald's even though his kosher upbringing meant he couldn't eat the food. We'd argue things like accessibility to fresh, healthy foods in food deserts might be a larger contributing factor, but then again, nobody elected us.
The toy ban has been a popular move with elected officials looking to curry favor with voters and constituents. If this measure passes, chains would be subject to fines between $200 and $2,500 for breaking the rules. So far, Big Fast Food has always won out, plus we all know this town doesn't appreciate being told what not to eat or feed its kids. Chances are your Hot Wheels and Barbie jewelry will live to see the inside of another greasy cardboard box.
Update: A spokesperson for Council Member Kallos has issued the following statement in response:
The Healthy Happy Meals bill would incentivize healthy eating in children by setting nutritional standards for kids' meals that offer a toy.
"According to The New York City Department of Health, half of elementary school children are overweight, while one fifth of kindergarten students are obese--and that's just not giving our children a fair start. It's hard enough for parents in New York City to get their children to eat healthy without the fast food industry spending $714 million dollars a year in 2009, with half of it on toys. It turns out to have a return on investment: The FTC has identified children's so-called "pester power" to play a role in food purchasing. This legislation means children would instead be rewarded with a toy for eating healthy.
Lack of access to fresh produce and healthy food is also a major problem, one that is partially caused by fast food options in food deserts that fail to offer healthy choices.
Protests will only be 'adorable' and 'squeaky-voiced' if that's how you view the multi-billion dollar corporate interests of big fast food."