McDonald's Turns On a Dime to Beat San Francisco's Happy Meal Law

McDonald's Happy Meal Clobbers Critics With KindnessA Happy Meal without a toy is, well, just a meal. However, McDonald's (MCD) has found a clever way to keep peddling Happy Meals in San Francisco, despite the city's having outlawed free promotional toys with meals that fail to meet certain nutritional requirements.

The trinket-banning law went into effect Thursday, and here's McDonald's response: Parents will have to request the toys, which will add an extra dime to Happy Meal prices. McDonald's will then donate those dimes to the Ronald McDonald House of San Francisco. (McDonald's Ronald McDonald House program provides support to families of sick children, as well as basic medical and dental care in some communities.)

Believe it or not, McDonald's Happy Meals actually do meet the law's requirement of having less than 600 calories. (They contain 500 calories.) The issue is that Happy Meals fall short of the law's standard for fruit and vegetable quotas. The San Francisco Department of Public Health doesn't count french fries as a vegetable.

McDonald's critics are correct to raise awareness of such matters as marketing to children and health issues with popular fast-food fare. However, picking on Happy Meals is a bit joyless, not to mention insulting to the entire concept of parental choice in kids' diets.

Although CNN quoted San Francisco City and County Supervisor Eric Mar acknowledging parental responsibility amid America's childhood obesity epidemic, he also mentioned fast-food companies' benefiting from kids' "pester power." I'm not sure what it says about America's future if "pester power" might be considered too "powerful" to combat.

McDonald's has found a way to preserve the toys and parental choice, and it's not even seeking to profit off the nominal fee it's now charging for the toys to avoid providing them "free." The fast-food giant may have made a brilliant checkmate here -- and has certainly painted its overzealous critics in a negative light.

Motley Fool analyst Alyce Lomax does not own shares of McDonald's.

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Yeah for Mc D's!!!!! The triumvant of Disney, Coke and McD's is slowly but surely turning the tummy's and the hearts of billions into American Rose Colored Glasses Wearing Clones. Good? Bad? Not sure if it even matters. Slowly but surely just as the ice carved out the Grand Canyon, our "American" style of optimism, ( watch Little House on the Prairie, or Star Trek if you don't get it) will become the "Standard". People GET REAL there is a mickey D's on the Champs Élysées!! They have Disney! and they guzzle Coke! There are many there who are horrified but you can't stop the tide. Big Brother? Maybe. But I'm tired of the gloom that is so pervasive, especially our two coasts, but particularly in the north east. Give me a little Pollyanna! I want to picnic in the shadows of bushes carved into amimation characters, listening to the piped in music (Its a Small World After All) while eating McNuggets, Big Mac's and Fries, with a Super Sized Coke ( diet for me LOL!!). Afterward we can all join hands and sing the Coca-cola Holiday ( see I can do PC) Song, "If I Could Give the World a Coke." Then you're all invited to my place to watch EVERY Christmass movie ever made. A few doses of make believe ala "Disney," and some good old McD's might be the only way to a common ground and with a few waves of the Fairy Godmother's wand
maybe we can "all just get along."

December 07 2011 at 3:21 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

So how is the Mc Lib food store doing????? Any IPO ??? Thought so.... tough to do ... easy to cry & carry a sign....what do the occupiers eat??? JAIL FOOD in SF,,,,

December 07 2011 at 10:44 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

7$ tax on all drive thru food, if you get out and walk in no tax. 7$ to the money owed china.

December 06 2011 at 6:28 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply


December 06 2011 at 6:19 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to obliterait's comment

so we may as well eat the fat and sugar.

December 06 2011 at 8:21 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

Why is everyone giving Mc D a hard time. They make burgers and fries. They never said they were going to be a health resaurant. They are not force feeding this stuff to you either.

December 06 2011 at 5:07 PM Report abuse +6 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to pomonaaj's comment

I like the woman who told the interviewer, "If I wanted healthfood, I'd go to the healthfood store."

December 06 2011 at 8:01 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

What a great move by Mc Donald's. Obesity in America's and other countries children is not caused by Mc Donapd's but the lazy people wh refuse to admit their own choices are the real cause. When a parent goes into a store and buys mainly junk food because they are to damm lazy to plan and cook for themselves and their children they get fat children and they themselves become couch potatoes because it hurts them to move for a little exercise. Years ago when I worked at a Mc Donald's the only people I saw there on a regular basis were the elderly who came in early in the morning for coffee and visiting with their friends. The majority drank only coffee while they sat and chatted. The majority of parents cannot afford to feed their children at Mc Donald's on a regular basis like the guy who ate every meal there and supersized for 30 days intentioonally to gain weight for an article. What children eat all day long at home and, their grandparents, and other places they go including the meals fed to them at school are the cause of the obesity along with not being active children. Cut the time spent playing games on the couch, watching television and just plain being lazy and they will lose the weight because an active child will burn off the calories they pick up by a visit to Mc Donald's when parents are in town shopping and cannot go right home or the occassional stop when they travel on a weekend. Who do you know that would spend between $15.00 to $20.00 everyday to feed their child at a Mc Donald's or any other fast food restaurant? I don't know who these idiots in San Francisco are but I would bet they are responsible for something else that was bad for the people of America. Namely Pelosiitis.

December 06 2011 at 4:53 PM Report abuse +10 rate up rate down Reply

Typical for California. A state that issue's Pot card's oh, sorry (Medical Marijuana) card's to anyone that want's one more or less. Please don't come back with the pain and disability crap...But they want to stop kid's from getting a toy in their in their meal.....I think these people need to stop smoking to much (medicine)... Do Californian's realizr that most of the country do consider them more or less NUTCASE'S? Now that's not for ALL, just nutcase's like these....

December 06 2011 at 4:38 PM Report abuse +9 rate up rate down Reply

The obesity problem in children is not McDonald's, Jack in the box or any fast food chains fault it is the PARENTS fault. It is the parents responsibility to keep an eye on what their children eat. If parents would cook at least 3-4 meals a week at home there would be no problem. I know some people are thinking well I work all day and I am tired when I get home and fast food is so much easier. Well guess what my parents worked when I was growing up and we at 95% of our meals at home.

December 06 2011 at 4:27 PM Report abuse +9 rate up rate down Reply

Well now we know for sure, McDs just want your money they are not interested in providing a healthier meal for kids. I guess I had my last McDonalds and I ate ther at least three to fur times a week with the breakfasts or lunch. Goodby McDonalds

December 06 2011 at 4:25 PM Report abuse -12 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to mindbender48's comment

Did you not read the article the toy is an option and the dime you pay for the toy is going to their charity

December 06 2011 at 4:52 PM Report abuse +7 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Courtney's comment

Courtney... reading is an obstacle for these lefties.... doesn t fit the agenda. Comphrension is a real obstacle... doesnt get taught in any public school...Need pictures of fat & thin folks you know.... the freedom to choose???? (point & chose, pass & fail) Socialism & 99% do nothings...

December 07 2011 at 10:38 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down

McDs has salad and apple slices. Get those if you are a healthfood nut.

December 06 2011 at 8:03 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
Wendy Teixeira

I'm lovin' it.

December 06 2011 at 4:24 PM Report abuse +7 rate up rate down Reply