mcdonalds_happy-meal.jpgSan Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom planned today to veto a city ban on toys being included in McDonald’s “Happy Meals” that fail to meet health standards, but the veto will likely be overturned by the Board of Supervisors.

Newsom proclaimed his intent to veto the ban in a statement on Tuesday after the board passed the legislation by an overwhelming and veto-proof majority of 8-3. The board plans to override the veto, District 1 Supervisor Eric Mar said.

The legislation, sponsored by Mar, would disallow toys to be included in children’s meals that exceed 600 calories and lack fruits and vegetables. It would go into effect in December 2011.

“I am surprised that Mayor Newsom plans to veto the Healthy Meal Legislation, given his consistent support of healthy eating and active living through his sponsorship of programs like Shape Up San Francisco, Sunday Streets, and Soda Free Summers,” Mar said today in a statement.

While many politicians view the ban as a coup against children being lured toward unhealthy meals by toys, Newsom said he sees the law as unnecessary government involvement in decisions that should be left to parents, a sentiment echoed by spokespeople for the McDonald’s restaurant chain.

“We must continue to take steps to combat childhood obesity, a genuine health crisis in America, but this bill takes the wrong approach,” Newsom said in Tuesday’s statement.
“Parents, not politicians, should decide what their children eat, especially when it comes to spending their own money,” he said.

Newsom said that despite the legislation’s “good intentions,” it is an “unwise and unprecedented governmental intrusion into parental responsibilities and private choices.”

Newsom was expected to discuss the veto at a news conference this morning at Fairmount Elementary School.

At the same event, Newsom planned to present the 2010 annual report from Shape Up San Francisco, a widespread multidisciplinary city government program that works with schools, health care providers, and employers to encourage healthier eating and more physical activity in an effort to battle chronic disease.

Implemented in 2006, Shape Up San Francisco procedures follow a five-year plan that attempted to battle obesity and diseases like diabetes both by raising awareness and by changing the environments San Franciscans live and work in.

The plan includes healthier meals and increased exercise opportunities for children in schools, after-school programs, and day care centers, according to the coalition’s website.

Newsom, the lieutenant governor-elect, touted San Francisco health initiatives, using the proliferation of salad bars in schools and the acceptance of food stamps at farmer’s markets as examples of efforts to raise accessibility to healthy food for all residents.

“No city in America has done more to educate our children and encourage families to make healthier eating choices,” he said.

Mar said he supports Newsom’s many health-promoting efforts like Shape Up San Francisco, but “as a city, we need to do more.”

“The dollars spent by the fast food industry far outnumber any resources that we as a city could spend on outreach and education,” Mar said. “Reducing the consumption of junk food by kids could spare the health of millions and save billions of dollars to our strapped public health system.”

Kyveli Diener, Bay City News

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