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CA County Bans Kids’ Meal Toys

(4/29/2010)

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Approving the first local ordinance of its kind, supervisors in Santa Clara County, CA, have banned restaurants from giving away toys and other promotional items with high-calorie children’s meals. Passed in a 3-2 vote this week, the limited ordinance targets any meal that contains more than 485 calories, 600 milligrams of sodium or certain percentages of fat or sugar. “This ordinance breaks the link between unhealthy food and prizes,” said Supervisor Ken Yeager, in a meeting on Tuesday.

Because the ordinance only applies to unincorporated neighborhoods like Stanford and Burbank, the majority of San Jose-area restaurants won’t be affected by the law. Hoping the fast-food industry will voluntarily begin offering more healthy kids’ meals, supervisors have decided to allow a 90-day grace period before the ordinance is enforced. Eventually, the ordinance calls for a $250 fine for the first violation, $500 for the second and then up to $1,000 for subsequent violations. “It’s just the way of government right now to try to protect us from ourselves,” said Tim Appleby, owner of Apple Advertising (asi/122990). “There are just too many regulations.”

Located in central California, Santa Clara County has a reputation for passing attention-grabbing ordinances. In 2008, the county’s board voted unanimously to require menu-labeling for fast-food restaurants, placing Santa Clara alongside San Francisco and New York City in efforts to curb obesity. But while the county’s latest health-related ordinance is making national news, it’s unlikely to have an immediate effect on many California distributors, especially since only about a dozen restaurants are located within the law’s target zone. “I don’t think it will affect our industry very much,” said Chris Savage, vice president of Burbank, CA-based The Corporate Gift Service (asi/168924). “From my career in merchandising I can say that these are very large specialty orders and a lot of them are direct to China.”

Santa Clara County’s supervisors will again address the ordinance in a May 11th meeting. County leaders are urging other communities across the country to adopt similar toy bans.

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