[UPDATE BELOW] It's hard out there for a Happy Meal. Two state officials today spoke about separate plans to regulate New Yorkers' caloric intakes. The first initiative comes from City Councilman Leroy Comrie Jr., who wants to follow San Francisco and ban toys from fast-food meals unless the meals meet certain n utritional standards, including that they have fewer than 500 calories. Comrie said in a statement, "By ensuring that toys are only given away with meals which meet the nutritional guidelines set out in this bill, children will be more likely to pick the healthier meals when they do visit fast food restaurants. Children, lured in with toy giveaways at an early age, are more likely to develop a habit of eating unhealthily."
First time violators could face fines of up to $500, and up to $2,500 for a third violation. But Comrie is no health-nut. He told City Room, "I’m not healthy. I’m the typical parent with no time and limited options, so you’re grabbing whatever is going to make your child happy. My wife has yelled at me repeatedly for grabbing Happy Meals." And why take a moment to make more responsible choices when you can just legislate away?
Elsewhere, the New York State Department of Health Commissioner Nirav R. Shah spoke about their "600 or less" campaign, which "encourages New Yorkers to check the calorie counts of foods served by fast food chains and choose meals that total 600 calories or less." Frustration over it not being the "600 or fewer" campaign aside, it's not a bad idea. Except that those calorie counts don't really work. And none of this counts when you're at the movies, right?
[UPDATE] McDonald's isn't too happy about Comrie's plans, and in a statement they cite data from America's most trusted scientific experts—moms! "Taking away toys from kids’ meals won’t solve childhood obesity. Nutrition experts and parents agree. In a national survey of U.S. moms, 83% say that banning toys from kids’ meals is NOT an effective way to deal with this important issue. On average, kids eat at McDonald’s about three times a month; that means about 87 other meals are eaten at home, school or elsewhere. That adds up to a discussion larger than toys." They also write, "We offer nutritionally-balanced Happy Meal options and serve up high-quality food choices like Chicken McNuggets made with white meat, low-fat milk, and Apple Dippers...As a bonus, kids get a safe, fun toy to enjoy." Ordering a Happy Meal of Chicken McNuggets with milk and apples does actually meet Comrie's requirements for toys [pdf], but most of the other options are have more than 500 calories.