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Toy ban for unhealthy kids meals

San Francisco could become the first major city in America to ban fast-food restaurants from including toys with children's meals that do not meet health guidelines.

The city council gave the measure final approval on Tuesday, with enough support to survive a planned veto by Mayor Gavin Newsom.

The law, which would go into effect in December of next year, prohibits toy give-aways in children's fast-food meals that have more than 640 milligrams of sodium, 600 calories or 35% of their calories from fat. It also would limit saturated fats and transfats and require fruits or vegetables to be served with each meal with a toy.

"Our effort is really to work with the restaurants and the fast-food industry to create healthier choices," said Eric Mar, the law's chief sponsor. "What our kids are eating is making them sick, and a lot of it is fast food."

The legislation is a big victory for activists and public health advocates who have accused food marketers of being complicit in the country's growing childhood obesity rates. They hope other cities and counties will follow their lead.

A similar one has already been approved in California's Santa Clara County, where it affected about a dozen restaurants.

"This will be a sign to the fast-food industry that it's time to phase out its predatory marketing to children at large," said Deborah Lapidus of Corporate Accountability International, a watchdog group that supported the legislation.

Mayor Newsom, meanwhile, said he plans to veto the ruling, which he called an "unwise and unprecedented governmental intrusion into parental responsibilities and private choices."

"Parents, not politicians, should decide what their children eat, especially when it comes to spending their own money," he said.

The industry, which favours self-regulation, says there is no evidence that San Francisco's law will halt childhood obesity.

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