'Happy Meal' Legislation Will Be Back for Seconds

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After the introduction of perhaps the first "multigrain amendment" yet brokered in City Hall, Supervisor Eric Mar's controversial proposal to forbid restaurants from including toys with Happy Meal-like menu items was yesterday continued, and will be debated again next week.

In addition to the groundbreaking multigrain compact, the following provisions were attached to the bill:

  • The required vegetable serving has been lowered from 3/4 of a cup to half a cup;

  • A requirement that no item in the meal exceed 200 calories was nixed;

  • A requirement mandating breakfasts to have half a cup of fruit and half a cup of vegetables was lowered to just requiring fruit.

The move came at a time when both the fast food industry and Mar's colleagues in city government are expressing doubts about the wisdom of the government dictating what can and cannot be in a Happy Meal. McDonald's threw down for a full-page ad in the Chronicle and a media blitz of sort has been launched by the website FreeToChooseOurMeals.com. That site is funded by Bob Cutler, who owns Creative Consumer Concepts, which makes little trinkets for kid-themed fast-food items. (Clearly, Cutler has a dog in this fight -- or, rather, a toy in this Happy Meal).

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Their lobbyists have spoken
Cutler's organization -- which has also mailed off forests worth of promotional material -- has plastered Mar's phone number and e-mail address on the internet and sheaves of fliers. No word on how many calls and e-mails Mar has received -- our call to him hasn't been returned. Also, no word on how many calls or e-mails have gone to Eric Mar, the city restaurant inspector, who is routinely buried under piles of correspondences intended for his elected namesake.

Perhaps most importantly, however, Mayor Gavin Newsom has promised a veto to Mar's measure -- no matter how many damn cups of fruit and multigrain items are mandated. Ostensibly, the mayor feels this is a bad use of government (consider the source).

It also warrants mentioning that just as the lieutenant governor candidate didn't want to see opposition TV ads talking about taxes being raised in San Francisco, he probably has no desire to be painted as the man who allowed San Francisco to steal your kids' Happy Meal toys.

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