Impact of San Francisco’s Toy Ordinance on Restaurants and Children’s Food Purchases, 2011-2012
In December 2011, San Francisco enacted the first citywide ordinance–the Healthy Food Incentives Ordinance– prohibiting restaurants in the city from giving away free toys or other incentives with children’s meals or with foods and beverages not meeting minimal nutritional criteria. This paper examines the impact of the ordinance on restaurant response (e.g., toy-distribution practices, changes in children’s menus) and child food and beverage orders in a natural experiment at two global fast food restaurant chains operating in San Francisco before and after ordinance enactment. Researchers found that both restaurant chains used the compliance strategy of offering toys for an additional 10 cents with the purchase of a children’s meal, and neither changed their menus to meet ordinance-specific nutritional criteria. Among children for whom children’s meals were purchased, significant decreases in calories, sodium, and fat per order were found over time at Chain A. These decreases were likely due to changes in children’s default side dishes and beverage options at Chain A which were not directly in response to the ordinance but were in directions consistent with the ordinance intent. Study results support the concept that more healthful defaults may be a powerful and rapid approach for improving dietary intakes.
Nearly $2 billion is spent yearly by U.S. food and beverage companies to market products to children, with the majority of expenditures promoting less healthful foods and drinks. For restaurants, including toys with children’s meals is the leading form of food marketing directed at children. The practice of child-directed marketing … More
Santa Clara County, California was the first U.S. jurisdiction to implement an ordinance that prohibits the distribution of toys and other incentives to children with meals, foods, or beverages that do not meet minimal nutrition criteria. This paper examines how ordinance-affected restaurants changed their children’s menus, child-directed marketing, and toy … More
The advertising and marketing of unhealthful foods and beverages via cross-promotions and premiums, such as toys and other incentives, may contribute to the development of unhealthy eating patterns and obesity, particularly in children. Santa Clara and San Francisco Counties (Calif.) passed separate ordinances on May 21, 2010 and November 9, … More