McDonald’s Rolls Out Healthy Happy Meal
McDonald’s has begun rolling out a healthier version of its children’s Happy Meal, in response to a legislative ban imposed on the product by the San Francisco legislature.
The new Happy Meal comes with a quarter-cup of apple slices and a smaller serving of french fries, 1.1 ounces worth, as side dishes, the fast food giant announced in a press release. If kids don’t want fries with their order, they can have an extra serving of apple slices at no charge.
Other changes to the Happy Meal have been made. The only beverage choice kids can have now will be fat-free chocolate milk, or 1-percent white milk, the company said.
McDonald’s has also reduced the sodium content in its Chicken McNuggets, which it started doing in 2003. Since then, the company has lowered the sodium in Chicken McNuggets by 20-percent, and in its chicken products overall by 10-percent.
The changes are in direct response to the San Francisco’s board of supervisors vote from last November to ban Happy Meals the way they were being sold. In what was called “an agenda of food justice,” the board voted by a veto-proof margin “to forbid restaurants from offering a free toy with meals that contain more than set levels of calories, sugar and fat”, reported The LA Times. If restaurants wanted to continue selling toys with their meals, they would have to adhere to guidelines that include providing fruits or vegetables with the food.
To that end, it is no coincidence that the retooled Happy Meal will first be sold in San Francisco. McDonald’s plans for the new product to be offered in all Sacramento and Greater Bay Area restaurants by Friday, September 16. It will be sold nationally by the end of the first quarter 2012.
Other cities have taken aim at fast food offerings, most notably New York. There, Mayor Bloomberg banned trans fats in bakeries and restaurants back in 2006, the first city to do so. He then instituted a regulation requiring chain restaurants to display calorie information on their menus in 2008, and launched a campaign in 2010 to get companies to reduce sodium in the food they sell by 25-percent within five years’ time.
The local legislative efforts are either inspired by or part of First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” anti-obesity campaign. Although it appears to have the best of intentions by raising the health standards of American children, the campaign has overstepped even the most traditional of household boundaries, such when some Chicago schools banned students from brining bag lunches from home.
Based on sales of the old version of the Happy Meal, Scott Rodrick, owner/operator of several San Francisco McDonald’s franchises, optimistically expects that 100 million cups of produce will be introduced into the diets of children annually.