Unhappy times are ahead for those who love Happy Meals in Santa Clara, California. The Los Angeles Times
reports that Santa Clara County has approved a ban on the promotional toys that often accompany kids' meals at fast-food spots like McDonald's, Burger King and Taco Bell. The toys must be discontinued unless the restaurants can institute a voluntary program in the next 90 days that improves the nutritional offerings.
According to ordinance sponsor Ken Yeager, "This ordinance prevents restaurants from preying on children's love of toys. This ordinance breaks the link between unhealthy food and prizes."
Childhood obesity and diabetes is certainly on the rise in the U.S., and Santa Clara is taking a route that goes above parental roles in healthy eating and targets the food itself. The ban will undoubtedly create havoc for franchise owners in Santa Clara; fast-food establishments are fairly rigid in terms of their menus and can't add new, specialty offerings on demand -- it just doesn't work that way.
Also, promotional toys are typically nationwide roll-outs. So Santa Clara kids and parents alike might have a hard time understanding why they can't get a toy for their child when advertisements and their Iowa cousins tell them they should be able to. We suspect this might lead to the inevitable: families driving across county lines just for some plastic.