Children won’t be seeing toys with their kids meals at most quick-service restaurants in San Francisco starting Thursday.
McDonald’s and Burger King said Wednesday they will stop including toys automatically in kids meals to comply with a new city ordinance that goes into effect Dec. 1.
Instead, both chains said toys will be sold separately for 10 cents with the purchase of a kids meal.
McDonald’s officials said Wednesday the move is in response to the Healthy Meal Legislation in San Francisco, which requires that meals marketed specifically to children meet certain nutritional standards if they include a free toy. McDonald’s has 19 locations in the Bay Area city.
McDonald’s and other fast-food chains have been under fire for years for the use of toys and marketing to kids, which critics say lures children into making poor food choices.
The nation’s No. 1 burger chain is battling a lawsuit in California filed by health advocates who contend McDonald’s toy offer has contributed to growing obesity rates among children.
Earlier this year, McDonald’s made changes to its Happy Meals with the goal of improving their nutritional profile.
The new version, which includes a smaller portion of fries, apple slices, and the option of milk, is being rolled out to the chain’s 14,000 U.S. locations and is in place in states like California and New York, as well as major cities across the country. Officials say the roll out will be systemwide by March 2012.
While some variations of the new Happy Meals have fewer than 600 calories — meeting one component of the San Francisco ordinance — the kids meals still don’t include a half-cup of fruit and a half-cup of vegetables, which also are required, said Danya Proud, a spokeswoman for McDonald’s USA.
“We’re including fruit, but it is about one-quarter cup,” she said.
Proceeds from the sale of the toys in San Francisco will go toward the support of a Ronald McDonald House in San Francisco, where families can stay together while children are treated for cancer.
“We believe this is the best option for being in compliance with the law and with customers telling us what they want,” Proud said. “For us, it’s more about the broader changes being made to the Happy Meals overall.”