Legislation to ban "Happy Meals" toys that could be copied by other Bay Area cities was vetoed yesterday by San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom who called it "unwise and unprecedented governmental intrusion" into private choices.
Newsom said he opposes the proposed ban in San Francisco on toys being included in McDonald's "Happy Meals" that fail to meet health standards, but the veto could be overturned by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.
Newsom proclaimed his intent to veto the ban after the board passed the legislation last Tuesday by an overwhelming and veto-proof majority of 8-3. The board plans to override the veto, District 1 Supervisor Eric Mar said.
The legislation, sponsored by Mar, would disallow toys to be included in children's meals that exceed 600 calories and lack fruits and vegetables. It would go into effect in December 2011.
"I am surprised that Mayor Newsom plans to veto the Healthy Meal Legislation, given his consistent support of healthy eating and active living through his sponsorship of programs like Shape Up San Francisco, Sunday Streets, and Soda Free Summers," Mar said today in a statement.
While many politicians view the ban as a coup against children being lured toward unhealthy meals by toys, Newsom said he sees the law as unnecessary government involvement in decisions that should be left to parents, a sentiment echoed by spokespeople for the McDonald's restaurant chain.
"We must continue to take steps to combat childhood obesity, a genuine health crisis in America, but this bill takes the wrong approach," Newsom said.
"Parents, not politicians, should decide what their children eat, especially when it comes to spending their own money," he said.
Newsom said that despite the legislation's "good intentions," it is an "unwise and unprecedented governmental intrusion into parental responsibilities and private choices."
McDonald's opposed the legislation, arguing parents should be allowed to make their own choices. At least one local McDonald's owner complained that the law would effectively ban him from serving Happy Meals in their current form.
Mar Tuesday called the legislation "a simple and modest policy that holds fast food accountable."
He argued that with childhood obesity a major concern, it's necessary to compel restaurants that market to children to offer healthier choices.