Toy bans on children's meals that do not meet minimal nutritional criteria have no affect on meals' nutritional value, study finds

LOS ANGELES , December 9, 2011 () – According to a study conducted by researchers from the Stanford University School of Medicine, toy bans on children’s meals that do not meet minimal nutritional criteria have no affect on the meals’ nutritional value, Food Production Design reported on Dec. 8.

For the study, researchers visited eight major fast-food outlets. Four of them were affected by an ordinance in unincorporated parts of Santa Clara Country, California, that banned toys in children’s meals that do not meet minimal nutrition criteria. The other four were nearby, same-chain restaurants that were not. For both groups, the study recorded a number of criteria, including both the nutritional content and the price of children’s meals, if toys were offered, and the content of promotional signs that were aimed at children.

According to the researchers’ results, before August 2010, 4% of the children’s meals offered at the restaurants met minimal nutritional standards, which stipulated that the meals must contain less than 485 calories in addition to meeting limits on salt, added sweeteners and fat. Four months after the toy ban went into effect, 4% of children’s meals on the menu compiled with minimal nutritional standards.

Researchers discovered that restaurants affected by the ban made advertising and environmental changes. Two of the restaurants affected removed advertising posters that featured toys, while two other restaurants began selling toys separately. One of the restaurants, although declining to provide additional healthy options, advertised those children’s meals that did meet minimal nutritional standards as “promoting good nutrition."

The primary source of this article is Food Product Design, Phoenix, Arizona, on Dec. 8, 2011.

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