(SAN FRANCISCO) -- On Tuesday, San Francisco became the first U.S. city to vote in favor of an ordinance that will limit toy giveaways in children's meals that are excessively high in fat, sodium and calories.
With the 1979 introduction of the McDonald's Happy Meal, fast food chains have used toy giveaways as the primary vehicle to sell more than a billion kids' meals to children 12 and under.
The ordinance's sponsor, Eric Mar, called the regulation a "victory for our children's health," citing "disturbingly high" rates of obesity.
"This is a challenge to the restaurant industry to think about children's health first and join the range of local restaurants that have already made this commitment," he said.
Local restaurants are also joining the measure along with public health professionals, parents, educators, small business and community advocates.
Citing the critical value of toy giveaways to fast food chains, McDonald's and its counterparts have gone to great lengths to fight the new rule, from threatening lawsuits to lobbying public officials. The fast food chains have also touted recent "healthier options" such as apple dippers with a caramel sauce.
Dr. Carmen Rita Nevarez, vice president of the Public Health Institute, points to the relativity of the term "healthier," and challenges fast food marketers to look at the reality of the current children's health crisis.
"One in three kids are, or will become, sick from the food they eat. We see it not only in our city's waiting rooms and classrooms, but in our soaring health care bills. It's time for fast food promotions to stop contravening our efforts to change this reality."
The San Francisco ordinance will take effect December 1, 2011.
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