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New York City “Healthy Happy Meals” Bill

Potential Impact on Fast Food Purchases
      The New York City (NYC) Council recently proposed a policy (“Healthy Happy Meals” bill) to improve the nutritional quality of children’s combination meals at fast food restaurants by requiring meals with toys or promotional items meet certain nutritional criteria (Figure 1).

      The New York City Council. A local law to amend the administrative code of the city of New York, in relation to setting nutritional standards for distributing incentive items aimed at children. Int. No. 442, § 17-198. August 21, 2014. legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=1890991&GUID=6F1A4577-176B-425A-B8AF-954369AB46F5&Options=ID|Text|&Search=Int+0442. Accessed November 10, 2014.

      This is similar to legislation in two California localities.
      • Otten J.J.
      • Hekler E.B.
      • Krukowski R.A.
      • et al.
      Food marketing to children through toys: response of restaurants to the first U.S. toy ordinance.
      • Otten J.J.
      • Saelens B.E.
      • Kapphahn K.I.
      • et al.
      Impact of San Francisco’s toy ordinance on restaurants and children’s food purchases, 2011–2012.
      One experimental study distributed toys with modified McDonald’s Happy Meals designed to comply with the California law. Children were more likely to choose healthier modified meals with the toy than unchanged meals without the toy.
      • Hobin E.P.
      • Hammond D.G.
      • Daniel S.
      • Hanning R.M.
      • Manske S.R.
      The Happy Meal effect: the impact of toy premiums on healthy eating among children in Ontario, Canada.
      The present study focuses on the NYC “Healthy Happy Meals” bill and how it might impact the nutritional quality of purchases for children if the proposed targets were met.
      Figure thumbnail gr1
      Figure 1Potential changes in children’s fast food purchases under the “Healthy Happy Meals” bill.
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      References

      1. The New York City Council. A local law to amend the administrative code of the city of New York, in relation to setting nutritional standards for distributing incentive items aimed at children. Int. No. 442, § 17-198. August 21, 2014. legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=1890991&GUID=6F1A4577-176B-425A-B8AF-954369AB46F5&Options=ID|Text|&Search=Int+0442. Accessed November 10, 2014.

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        Food marketing to children through toys: response of restaurants to the first U.S. toy ordinance.
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        • Otten J.J.
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        Impact of San Francisco’s toy ordinance on restaurants and children’s food purchases, 2011–2012.
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        • Hobin E.P.
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        The Happy Meal effect: the impact of toy premiums on healthy eating among children in Ontario, Canada.
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      2. Green D. Here are all the people plotting to kill the McDonald’s Happy Meal. Business Insider. April 25, 2013. http://www.businessinsider.com/could-the-happy-meal-die-2013-4. Accessed April 20, 2015.