The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors has given tentative approval to an ordinance that would restrict the ability of restaurants to use toys or other incentives to entice children into eating meals that are high in fat, sugar, and calories. The ordinance is believed to be the first of its kind in the United States.
According to county Supervisor Ken Yeager, who sponsored the ordinance, the Federal Trade Commission estimated that in 2006, restaurants sold 1.2 billion meals accompanied by toys to children under 12. A 2008 study by the Center for Since in the Public Interest found that 10 out of 12 meals exceeding the recommended number of calories for children came with toys, according to Yeager.
“This ordinance levels the playing field,” Yeager said. “It helps parents make the choices they want for their children without toys and other freebies luring them toward food that fails to meet basic nutritional standards.”
The ordinance, which would apply only in the unincorporated areas of the county, would allow restaurants to offer toys and other incentives as long as the food they come with meets national nutritional criteria for children.
Food would be considered unhealthy if it had more than 120 calories for a beverage, 200 for a single food item or 485 for a meal) excessive sodium (480 mg for a single food item or 600 mg for a meal), excessive fat (more than 35 percent of total calories from fat), or excessive sugar (more than 10 percent of calories from added sweeteners.) The criteria are based on standards for children’s health created by the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and the Department of Agriculture (USDA) and recommendations for children’s food published by the Institute of Medicine (IOM).
The ordinance will not go into effect until the board of supervisors gives it final approval, scheduled for a May 11 meeting.