SAN FRANCISCO — For some veggies-hating children, Happy Meals won't be so happy anymore.
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City lawmakers on Tuesday approved legislation that they hope will force fast-food chains such as McDonald's to make their children's meals healthier or stop selling them with toys.
The Board of Supervisors voted 8-3 to preliminarily approve an ordinance that would limit toy giveaways in children's meals that have excessive calories, sodium and fat. It also requires servings of fruits or vegetables with each meal.
The measure drew enough support to overcome an expected veto by Mayor Gavin Newsom. The supervisors are expected to vote again to override the veto.
If not successfully challenged, the law would go into effect December 2011.
McDonald's Corp. representatives, who say the law would take the joy out of the Happy Meal, derided the vote outside of lawmakers' chambers at City Hall.
Supervisors and activists who support the measure said they hoped efforts like this would make San Francisco the first major city to take this action to curb childhood obesity, perhaps starting a trend that would spread to other cities, states and the country.
"From San Francisco to New York, the epidemic of childhood obesity in this country is making people sick, making our kids sick, particularly kids from low-income neighborhoods," said Supervisor Eric Mar, who proposed the law.
McDonald's has said the law threatens business and restricts parents' ability to make choices for their children.
Scott Rodrick, an owner and operator of 10 McDonald's restaurants in the city, said after the vote that "there will be sales loss, there may be jobs impacted, and I know the city of San Francisco will lose tax income to people wanting a McDonald's experience without government intervention."
He said none of his current menu items would be allowed under the nutritional guidelines in the ordinance. Those standards have been criticized by the company, who said proponents lack the evidence to support the claim that they would help reduce obesity.
Rodrick also pointed out that anyone could circumvent the law easily: "Someone doesn't have to travel very far — a mile outside San Francisco — to get the traditional McDonald's Happy Meals experience."
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