McDonald’s spends millions of dollars each year on toys to include in some of the meal packages. The restaurant chain’s goal is clearly to use very cheap plastic figures, which cost virtually nothing, to sell more hamburgers, french fries and soda to children, in order to establish a long-term relationship with new customers.
If you can get a lot of children interested in your food products at an early age, chances are they will remain customers for years, even into adulthood. From purely a business standpoint it is a winning strategy. From the perspective of children’s health and public health, it is dangerous. Children often don’t know about nutrition, obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. They typically don’t know how to restrain themselves when presented with large amounts of calorie-rich food high in fat, salt and sugar.
San Francisco recently proposed to ban McDonald’s Happy Meals with toys from San Francisco, in an attempt to stop “predatory marketing.” Gavin Newsom, San Francisco’s mayor vetoed the proposal saying it isn’t the government’s responsibility to decide what foods children should eat, it is up to parents. However, his veto was overruled by San Francisco supervisors by a vote of 8 to 3, and so the ban will go into effect December 11, 2011.
Some McDonald’s meals are still allowed by the law to include toys, as long as they are lower in sodium, and calories and include one vegetable or fruit item. A similar law is in effect in Santa Clara county, which is about fifty miles south of San Francisco in the Silicon Valley area.