California has long been a trendsetter when it comes to public-health initiatives. Years ago, it forced the big auto makers to curb engine exhaust, a move that helped reduce air pollution. More recently, it banned the sale of fattening soft drinks in public schools. And now some lawmakers have set their sights on a new target - the toys given away with kids' meals at fast-food chains.
Municipal politicians in the state's Silicon Valley have proposed a local law that would prevent restaurants from using toys and other incentives to attract children to foods deemed to be unhealthy. McDonald's has created a huge demand for its Happy Meals, in part, by including a toy. Other chains have similar marketing schemes.
Under the new rules - which must pass another legislative hurdle before becoming law - restaurants' giveaways would be restricted to those meals that meet U.S. government nutrition criteria. That means the chow couldn't exceed limits set on sodium, fat and sugar for children.
"This ordinance levels the playing field," Ken Yeager, president of Santa Clara County's Board of Supervisors, told Reuters. "It helps parents make the choices they want for their children without toys and other freebies luring them towards foods that fail to meet basic nutritional standards."