May 10th, 2011

Fast-food lobbies U.S. states on "Happy Meal" laws


Fast-food companies are asking U.S. state legislators to remove restaurant marketing from local governments’ regulatory menu, in the latest industry bid to stay a step ahead of anti-obesity laws.

The lobbying push, which has succeeded in Arizona and gained traction in Florida, aims to stop marketing restrictions before they start. The efforts come as food companies face increasing scrutiny from the U.S. government over how they pitch their products to youngsters as obesity rates rise.

Last year San Francisco became the first major city to require that McDonald’s Happy Meals and other restaurants’ meals for children meet certain nutritional standards before they can be sold with toys.

The $184 billion fast-food industry fiercely opposes the so-called “Happy Meal” ordinances.

Michele Simon, a public health attorney and research and policy director for the Marin Institute in Northern California, says the industry is trying to tie the hands of local officials.

“It is taking away the right of local government to act,” said Simon, author of “Appetite for Profit”, a book that attacks the practices of the U.S. food and restaurant industry.

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