New York City Legislation Would Protect Children from Health-Damaging Junk-Food Marketing

Statement of CSPI Nutrition Policy Director Margo G. Wootan


For far too long, fast-food chains such as Wendy's and Burger King have been using toy giveaways to lure children to meals of cheeseburgers, French fries, and sodas and other meals of poor nutritional quality. This is a practice that is meant to exploit the cognitive immaturity of children and make parents' jobs harder. And more than 95% of kids' meals at the top chain restaurants are unhealthy.

Parents have the ultimate responsibility to feed their children healthy diets. It's a hard enough job without fast-food marketers undermining them. Restaurants must exercise their corporate responsibility as well. And more than any other city, New York knows the importance of local efforts in solving public health problems.

It's to New York City Councilmember Ben Kallos' great credit that a solution to this particular problem is now at hand. His sensible legislation sets reasonable nutrition standards for those meals that use toys or other incentives to attract children. This bill would prevent chains from pairing toys with meals that promote diabetes, obesity, and other health problems in children.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, fast-food is marketed to children and teens more than any other food category, with companies spending $715 million on marketing in 2009. Toy giveaways make up almost half ($340 million) of those promotions, a marketing expenditure second only to television advertising.

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