Toys are the new target in child obesity fight

FRESNO, Calif.

This ordinance is the first of its kind in the nation. It is now against the law in Santa Clara County for restaurants to use toys to entice kids to eat unhealthy fast food, determined by calorie count, as well as fat, sugar and sodium content.

More cities or counties could soon follow their lead.

Toys found in happy meals and other kid's menus are front and center in the latest food fight. Critics say these enticements lead children to feast on fried, fatty fast foods. But fast food restaurant owners said government shouldn't be the one deciding.

"I don't believe the county should be substituting its judgment for the judgment of parents in making this decision," said McDonalds franchise owner Stacey Henley.

Other fast food executives told supervisors they were already promoting healthy choices for kids, such as salads, apple juice and low fat milk.

"The popular Shrek figure... We'll be using him to encourage children to eat more fruits and vegetables," said McDonalds executive Harlon Levy.

The California Restaurant Association said its poll shows 87-percent of Santa Clara County residents oppose the bill.

But supporters cited studies which show one in four children in the county are overweight or obese. They said the toys are a magnet that attract youngsters to unhealthy food.

Saratoga Mayor Kathleen King has five children. "It starts with 'I'm hungry' and then it goes to what the toy looks like so I know exactly where it's going."

The vote was close. It passed with a three-to-two vote.

The ordinance takes effect in 90 days and allows for fines up to $1,000. Enforcement will be by the santa Clara County Health Department.

Officials from Orange County, Chicago, New York City, and San Francisco have all expressed interest in passing similar laws.

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