New York City legislators are discussing a bill intended to provide healthier fast food meals for children.
According to the NYC department of health, childhood obesity is a “major problem”, with nearly half of all elementary school children being above “healthy weight”, and worse still, even kindergarten’s being affected at a rate of one in five.
The new regulations are intended to apply only to fast food meals marketed towards children, many of which come with the added incentive of a small toy, such as McDonald’s Happy Meal. According to a 2012 Federal Trade Commission report, in 2009 alone, the fast food industry spent $714 million in advertising towards kids.
Alongside the restriction posed on the number of calories per serving, restaurants will also be required to add “healthy food items”, such as whole grain, vegetable or fruit to a full menu.The proposition was accompanied by a study analyzing food purchasing habits of 358 adults and 422 children, conducted among the clients of McDonald’s, Wendy’s and Burger King restaurants in New York City.
The study concluded that an average seven year old child consumes around 600 calories during a visit at a fast food restaurant, 35% of the children having been bought kids meals, only 2% of which have been found to conform to the new proposed restriction.
The senior author of the study, Marie Bragg of NYU Langone Medical Center, admitted that the new regulation is not without its limitations, especially as it only targets a relatively small niche of the American food industry.
The 9% intended reduction in calories and 10% reduction in salt
“is a rather small amount in comparison to how bad the country’s obesity problem really is,”
says Bragg, also expressing hopes that further such small changes would have a cumulative impact on America’s obesity epidemic.
The Healthy Happy Meals bill, is expected to shave off around 54 calories out of the children’s daily intake, hopefully getting them closer to the ideal figures of 1,000 to 1,400 calories a day recommended by the US Food and Drug Administration. It specifically limits the calorie count at 500 per serving, among which 35% are to be derived from fat, with fewer than 10% from saturated fats or sugar. The sodium content will be limited to 600mg.
Unlike a similar Californian piece of legislature, the Healthy Happy Meals bill didn’t make it through the New York ruling body back when it was first submitted in 2011, having been proposed for a second time by councilman Ben Kallos in 2014.
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