mcdonalds_happy-meal.jpgAn effort to force fast-food restaurants to make the meals they market to children healthier passed a San Francisco Board of Supervisors committee today.

The legislation, sponsored by Supervisor Eric Mar, is expected to be considered by the full board on Oct. 19.

Mar’s ordinance would require that, in order to be sold with toys or other items targeted at youth, meals such as the McDonald’s Happy Meal include fruits or vegetables and not have excessive calories, sodium, fat and sugar.

The debate has played out in the public as a question of personal and parental responsibility versus corporate accountability and children’s health.

Fast food industry representatives have assailed the measure, claiming the industry has taken steps toward making their meals healthier.

They have said the energy focused on the issue would be better spent on education initiatives.

Corporate watchdogs, parents and physicians have said the industry’s massive marketing budgets have made the efforts of parents and teachers much more difficult, particularly in low-income and minority communities.

At today’s Land Use and Economic Development Committee meeting, Mar called his measure “a modest step forward” to address “an obesity epidemic in San Francisco and throughout this country.”

“It’s not just about education, it’s about creating more equitable and healthier food environments,” Mar said.

Though the board committee approved the legislation today, Mar will need the support of at least eight supervisors in order to overturn a possible mayoral veto.

Mayor Gavin Newsom is concerned about “dictating how a private restaurant wants to market its food, some of which includes healthy choices already,” Newsom spokesman Tony Winnicker said.

Ari Burack, Bay City News

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