SANTA CLARA COUNTY, CALIF. – Ken Yeager, President of the County of Santa Clara Board of Supervisors, wants to explore the creation of an ordinance to limit restaurants’ ability to offer toys or other incentives that encourage children to eat meals of little or no nutritional value.
“The County needs more tools in the fight against childhood obesity,” said Yeager. “While not a panacea in and of itself, this ordinance would be another component of our strategy to improve the health of children in our county.”
In 2006, the Federal Trade Commission estimated that restaurants sold 1.2 billion meals accompanied by toys to children under 12. While there are currently no nutritional standards for meals marketed to children, a 2008 study by the Center for Science in the Public Interest found that 10 out of 12 meals exceeding the recommended caloric limits for children came with toys.
“It’s hard to compete against the barrage of games and gimmicks,” said Yeager. “While parents are trying to teach their kids proper eating habits, corporations are marketing unhealthy food directly to children using incentives like toys or free digital media.”
Rising rates of overweight and obesity in children pose an urgent public health problem. In Santa Clara County, 1 in 3 low income children ages 2 to 5 are overweight or obese. One-in-four 7th, 9th and 11th graders in Santa Clara County are overweight or obese. A Kaiser study released last week shows that obese kids could face health problems in their twenties normally associated with 40 to 60 year olds and a lifespan that is shortened by 10 to 20 years.
The County of Santa Clara has a long history at the forefront in the battle against obesity. In 2008, it was one of the handful of cities and counties in California passing ordinances requiring point-of-purchase menu labeling of nutritional information. Those local ordinances helped convince legislators to pass a statewide menu labeling law.
At today’s meeting, the Board of Supervisors approved Yeager’s request to have staff research and report back on a possible law to address the marketing of low-nutrition meals to children. A report on possible language, the timing and feasibility of an ordinance is expected at the April 27 Board of Supervisors Meeting.
Media Contact: Gwendolyn Mitchell/Laurel Anderson, Office of Public Affairs, (408) 299-5119; Jim Weston, Communications Aide, Office of President Ken Yeager (408) 299-5040
Posted: March 23, 2010