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Liverpool set to ban McDonald's Happy Meals in a bid to cut childhood obesity

 

Daily Mail (UK)
February 24, 2008

 

 

McDonald's Happy Meals are to be banned in Liverpool over claims they are contributing to the epidemic of childhood obesity.

The city council is planning to outlaw the meals on the grounds that they are damaging the heath of children - particularly as they offer free toys in order to encourage parents to buy junk food for their children.

The Liberal Democrat-controlled authority claims the credit for taking the lead in the campaign that led to the ban on smoking in public places.

Members of Liverpool City Council's Childhood Obesity Scrutiny Group want a bye-law that would forbid the sale of fast foot accompanied by toys.

Councillors say the promotional items are used to boost sales through the "Pester Power" phenomenon - children pestering parents for Happy Meal toys.

The scrutiny Group has ordered a report from town hall officials that would pave the way for the bye-law that would be the first of its kind in the UK.

Lib Dem councillor Paul Twigger said: "The Scrutiny Group is recommending that a bye-law be enforced to stop the circulation of free toys associated with junk food promotions.

"We consider it is high time that cash-hungry vultures like McDonald's are challenged over their marketing policies which are directly aimed at promoting unhealthy eating among children.

"Childhood obesity is a dire threat to the health in this country and it needs to be nipped in the bud urgently.

"Children are directly targeted with junk food and McDonald's use the Happy Meals to exploit Pester Power of children against which many parents give in.

"In most Happy Meals the toy is sold with a burgers containing four or five tablespoons of sugar, along with high-calorie fries and milkshakes.

"These fattening meals are being shamelessly promoted through free toys and it is clear that it is going to take legislation to combat the practice.

The most calorific Happy Meal - cheeseburger, small fries and chocolate milkshake - has 740 kcals, almost half of children's recommended daily allowance of 1600.

The healthiest meal on the menu comprises carrot sticks, nuggets, and mineral water, with 200 Kcals.

But Lib Dem Cllr Twigger said: "They know that most children won't want carrots and water but put them on the menu to stave off the criticism from health campaigners."

Toys that have been dished out include the board game Twister, Top Trump cards and football-related collectables.

"By offering these toys they are preying on the needs and desires of children in order to cash-in on the sale of junk food," said Cllr Twigger, 26.

Healthy eating campaigners are backing Liverpool council's move.

Food Commission spokesman Ian Tokelove said: "McDonald's are very skilled at getting children into their restaurants and know how to tug on the purse strings of parents.

"But a lot of the food on the Happy Meal menu can put children health at risk if eaten too regularly."

Sustain spokesman Richard Watts said: "We would support every effort to stop toys being sold with junk food. It will be see how Liverpool Council fares.

"We need to take radical action against the massive junk food-related health problems we have got with child obesity and heart disease."

In 2004, Liverpool sought a bye-law to ban smoking in public places and it is widely acknowledged that the move played a significant role in leading to the ban imposed last year.

Cllr Twigg believes the new move in Liverpool could begin locally and lead to a similar nationwide ban.

He said: "The Liverpool smoke-free team had a great success with their campaign and their ideas played a massive part in the nationwide blanket ban last year.

"There's no reason why we can't achieve a similar feat."

The plan to impose the bye-law banning Happy Meals will be put to a Select Committee of Liverpool Council at the end of the month.
 

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