mcdonalds_happy-meal.jpgSan Francisco supervisors today postponed a committee vote on an ordinance intended to promote healthier fast-food restaurant meals that are marketed to children.

The legislation, sponsored by Supervisor Eric Mar, would require meals such as the McDonald’s Happy Meal to have fruits or vegetables and not have excessive calories, sodium, fat and sugar in order to sell them with toys and other items targeted at youth.

McDonald’s Corp. representatives turned out in force today against the measure, and though Mar said he believes it will likely pass the Board of Supervisors eventually, Mayor Gavin Newsom indicated he would veto it.

The board’s Land Use and Economic Development Committee voted this afternoon to continue the legislation at next week’s meeting after Mar added a few minor amendments on some of the nutritional requirements.

Mar said the “modest ordinance” was intended to help address childhood obesity.
“Toys and other incentives are the lure that entice kids and parents to meals that are way too high in fat, sugar and calories,” Mar said at a news conference at City Hall earlier in the day.

Supporters said the legislation would affect nearly 50 restaurants in San Francisco.
Scott Rodrick, who owns 10 of San Francisco’s 19 McDonald’s restaurants, spoke out against the measure at a separate City Hall event.

Rodrick joined the delegation of McDonald’s representatives, who maintained that they already offer healthy options and that Mar’s legislation would “undermine” parental choice and responsibility.

Rodrick said the legislation was “well-intentioned” but would cause confusion and chaos at local restaurants.

“We should be educating parents about balanced lifestyles,” Rodrick said. He added that if the measure passes, he would have to invent an “Eric Mar Happy Meal” for his restaurants because he said none of his current meals would meet the health standards.

Proponents countered that education initiatives are already being undertaken, and that the legislation would be another tool in the fight against multi-billion-dollar fast food corporations with massive marketing capabilities, often targeted at low-income and minority communities.

Newsom spokesman Tony Winnicker said the mayor believed that Mar’s legislation, contrary to other nutritional initiatives Newsom has supported, would be “dictating how a private restaurant wants to market its food, some of which includes healthy choices already.”

Mar said he was working to “educate his colleagues as much as possible” in order to try to get the support of the minimum eight supervisors needed to overturn a mayoral veto.

Ari Burack, Bay City News

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