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As Promo Toy Ban Takes Effect, McDonald's Fights Back
Vol. 872 
December 1, 2011

In San Francisco today, a legally mandated ban on promotional toys included with high-calorie meals goes into effect. Initially passed through the San Francisco legislature late last year in an effort to fight childhood obesity, the law states that promotional toys (like those included in meals at establishments such as McDonald's and Burger King) can't be given away with kids' meals that exceed 600 calories or lack fruit or vegetables. Since the law was passed in San Francisco, many fast-food chains have worked on making their kids' meals healthier by offering apple slices and other alternatives. Also, Jack In The Box announced earlier this year that it has pulled promotional toys from its kids' meals altogether.

Some McDonald's outlets in San Francisco, though, have found a loophole in the law that is allowing them to continue to hand out toys with kids' meals, even as the ban goes into effect today. While the law states that promotional toys can't be "given away" with high-calorie kids' meals, nothing is stopping restaurants from charging for the toys. So, some local McDonald's have begun to ask consumers to pay 10 cents, which will be donated to charity, to get the toys with their kids' meals.

"This law is not what my customers wanted or asked for, but the law's the law," said Scott Rodrick, who owns 10 of the 19 McDonald's franchises in the city. While he had considered lowering the price of the kids' meals to offset the new cost of the toys, Rodrick said his outlets surveyed customers and found that they felt the new charge was "fair and reasonable." And, as far as adhering to the new law, Rodrick says his restaurants' new charge for the toys "complies with the letter of the law."

Proceeds from the toy sales at McDonald's franchises in San Francisco will be used to help build a new Ronald McDonald House to temporarily house families with sick children at the new UCSF Hospital, which is now under construction.

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