10 Cents For Happy Meal Toys From McDonalds

McDonalds has figured out how to get around an imminent ban on toy giveaways in children’s meals that have too much sugar, salt and fat: Charge 10 cents per toy.

The fast-food giant will not be pocketing all those extra dimes and nickels from the new San Francisco ordinance that goes into effect on Thursday. The proceeds from the sales of the toys will go to build a new Ronald McDonald House to temporarily house families with sick children at the new UCSF Hospital now under construction at the Mission Bay campus.

Under the Healthy Food Incentives Ordinance, chain restaurants can no longer give away toys with Happy Meals or other kids’s meals that don’t meet San Francisco’s strict nutritional guidelines. Meals must contain no more than 600 calories, a drink option without excess sugar or fat and a helping of fruits and vegetables. Jack in the Box franchises are already no longer including toys, period, with kids’s meals. Over the summer, McDonalds attempted to (so to speak) “beef up” the nutritional content of its kids’s meals over the summer, by lessening the amount of French fries in the meals and including apple slices in stores in California and some other regions.

McDonalds had considered charging ten cents less for the Happy Meals so consumers would not see a price difference if they purchased a Happy Meal and a toy. But customers indicated they would not mind paying a 10-cent-fee which they have deemed “fair and reasonable.”

The San Francisco ordinance is modeled on one that already affects a number of fast-food restaurants in Santa Clara County. New York City is also considering a ban on toys being included with children’s meals that do not meet certain nutritional criteria.

Critics are questioning the San Francisco ban. Scott Rodrick, who owns 10 of the 19 McDonald’s in San Francisco, says that “This law is not what my customers wanted or asked for, but the law’s the law.” Supervisor Eric Mar, the chief sponsor of San Francisco’s ordinance, says that a “parent’s right to choose” was never in danger of being taken away. The fees are rather meant as an incentive to encourage fast food restaurants to increase the nutritional content of their offerings.

As Corporate Accountability International points out, by making sure it is well known that the money from the toys is going to a good cause (Ronald McDonald House), McDonald’s “is again using a charity that helps children get well to defend a practice that contributes to a range of diet-related conditions like diabetes.” McDonalds spent $400 million plus per year to market its meals. Without those slicky and glitzy promotions, maybe people would actually be more aware of what those fat/sugar/salt-laden burgers, fries and McMuffins taste like.


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Photo by claudiolobos


Jim Ven
Jim Venabout a year ago

thanks for sharing.

Cathryn C.
Cathryn C6 years ago

At a time when Congress has declared a pizza slice a serving of vegetables in a school lunch..I am not worried about McDonalds Happy Meals. McD's already Offers in Happy Meals a choice of small soda, 2% milk or apple juice and apple dippers instead of fries. They don't force fries on kids, soda or heavy sugars..that is a choice the parent makes when they oder the meal.

Sheri P.
Sheri P6 years ago

PS, I HATE McBathrooms...can't ever pass up an opportunity to slam 'em...LOL!

Sheri P.
Sheri P6 years ago

that is ridiculous! who wants those cheap toys anyway? but that's beside the point. the fact that they are "again using a charity that helps children get well to defend a practice that contributes to a range of diet-related conditions like diabetes”...is sad. why not just sell healthy food then you just might not need so many hospitals...

Lika S.
Lika P6 years ago

Well, at least it's going to a good cause. Now if parents could just donate the money rather than feed their kids junk...

Mandi A.
Amanda A6 years ago

Those toys are worthless, your kid is going to play with that piece of plastic for 20 minutes until they throw it in their toy box, it will stay there for three years until your next moving sale where you willl surely mark it down to "free!" but still, no one will want it. It will then make its journey into the garbage and meet its end in some land fill contributing to unrecycled plastic crap that shouldn't have been invested in in the first place. Put your ten cents towards a HEALTHY meal for your child and invest in their health.

Lindsey Williams
Lindsey Williams6 years ago


Heather W.
Heather W6 years ago

What they should have done was legislate that the nutritional information be printed on the packaging for kids' meals. I suspect the parents wouldn't think the meals so convenient if they knew just how bad they are for their children. The portions may seem small but impact is HUGE.

Deanna J.
Deanna J6 years ago

I never really thought about toys in Happy Meals, but it definitely affected my food choices as a kid. Also, the stereotypes that kids don't like vegetables. I was so picky, probably only because people told me it was okay.

Maybe if the local farmer's market began to offer toys with each purchase of greens, kids would respond more positively to food they actually should be eating?

Blueberry M.
Blueberry M6 years ago

I never considered the effect of the toys on the kids. It's sort of psychological reinforcement for eating the meal. That and the play areas make kids associate McDonalds with fun and excitement. It's sad that society is putting so much effort into making children excited about eating crap when the same basic principles could be used to make healthy food enjoyable and desirable.
People assume it's natural for children to dislike veggies but I think it's largely due to parent's attitudes and what they see in culture. I was reading a picture book to a toddler that said something like "broccoli- yuck! not for me, for the rabbit!" It seems cute and funny unless you think about how it effects children... It's sad that children are told healthy food is gross and are encouraged and rewarded for eating garbage.