A newly released Centers for Disease Control report of a study conducted at Stanford has examined the effects of San Francisco's 2010 "Happy Meal ban." The ban prohibited the free distribution of toys with unhealthy meals; the fast-food restaurants McDonald's and Burger King instead sold the toys for 10 cents. Though neither restaurant complied with the ordinance's specific calls for changes in nutritional content, improvements have been made.
As reported by SFGate.com:
...over the study’s two-year period, McDonald’s in particular made big changes to its Happy Meals, said [Jennifer Otten, MD,] of the University of Washington School of Public Health — first in California, then nationally.
The fast food giant cut the amount of French fries it serves in Happy Meals in half, replacing them with apples; stopped serving caramel sauce with apples; and began offering nonfat chocolate milk to customers. Otten said those substitutions were “pretty dramatic,” — they reduced the calories in a Happy Meal by 110, and cut the sodium and fat content of the meal as well.
Otten and her colleagues, including senior author Abby King, PhD, concluded in the study, "Although the changes... did not appear to be directly in response to the ordinance, the transition to a more healthful beverage and default side dish was consistent with the intent of the ordinance. Study results... suggest that public policies may contribute to positive restaurant changes."
Previously: How fast-food restaurants respond to limits on free toys with kids’ meals, Toying with Happy Meals, How food advertising and parents’ influence affect children’s nutritional choices and Living near fast food restaurants influences California teens’ eating habits
Photo by Ursala Urdbeer