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New Food for Thought: Banning Toys from Happy Meals

Councilman Leroy Comrie is sponsoring a bill to discontinue to the inclusion of toys with any meal over 500 calories.

A proposal to ban the sale of toys with high calorie meals has brought about supersized reactions at McDonalds restaurants in Northeast Queens.

Councilman Leroy Comrie, D-St. Albans, who reportedly struggles with his own weight of 335 pounds, last week announced that he is sponsoring a Council bill to prohibit the inclusion of toys with any meal over 500 calories, or any single food item over 200 calories.

"Prohibiting fast food restaurants from giving out toys with highly unhealthy meals will reduce the allure of such establishments for children while hopefully incentivizing the fast food industry to provide their customers with healthier and more nutritious options," said Comrie.

“Ban ‘em,” said Chad McTigue, who had just pushed aside the last of his two Filet-O-Fish sandwiches at the on Northern Blvd. at 203rd St. “I got an eight-year-old kid. It’s making the kids want them, then they get fat.” He never brings his son to fast food outings, he said.

Sitting on the other side of the restaurant’s upper level, a young adult, Ashley Roman, who was chomping on McNuggets, doubted McTigue’s premise.

“It’s not about the toy, it’s about the food,” Roman said.

A cashier at that location said as many as half the kids who come into the restaurant ask their parent to buy just the toy—no food—which the parents oblige.

"My son got weaned off McNuggets when he was 12. Before that, he wouldn't eat anything else," said Naeem Ahmed, inside the on Northern Blvd. in Little Neck.

Ahmed said his son has had weight issues ever since. Despite this, Ahmed said he was unsure as to what the best solution to the problem of childhood obesity would be. 

"I don't know if I would go all the way of banning it entirely," he said of McDonald's Happy Meals. 

However, another diner at the restaurant had another take on the issue of marketing fast food to children. 

"She always looks forward to the toy," Lisle Bohen said while eating Tuesday afternoon at the McDonald's on Northern Blvd. in Little Neck with her 4-year-old niece, Cerys. "Why would anyone take that away?"

Cerys' grandfather Mike Bohen, also at the McDonald's in Little Neck, weighed in on proposed legislation banning the sale of Happy Meals in the five boroughs. 

"I think it's up to the parents to decide what they want their children to eat," Mike Bohen said. 

"While I recognize that ensuring that children have access to, and eat more, nutritious meals is ultimately the responsibility of their caretakers,” said Comrie, “the City Council can empower parents by making it harder for the fast food industry to target children with predatory marketing techniques.”

Councilman Dan Halloran, R-Whitestone, was skeptical of his colleague’s proposal.

“Our children should instead be taught the discipline to say ‘no’ to Happy Meals and make responsible decisions about what they eat,” said Halloran, adding, “All New Yorkers should have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of Happy Meals.”  

Mitch Schwadron April 14, 2011 at 03:01 PM
after backlash ad- " it was"
Arthur Arlo April 14, 2011 at 03:16 PM
There now Mr, Comrie. You should mind your business. Work on lowering taxes... Property and sales. I hope you also lower your calorie intake and your part time payroll pay. I will take care of MY family Arthur
Mitch Schwadron April 18, 2011 at 10:16 PM
It seems that my comment was deleted? So much for freedom of the press, and the rights of free speech. To quote my self, Leroy weighs over 500 pounds, he's 6'3" and has a 70"+ waist. His problem is not the toys in the happy meals, its the meals themselves. Not that a meal is a them, but at a recent event I asked him if he was on a diet, and Leroy said the old saying of the hungry fat people, "I am on the see food diet, I see food and I eat it. " He had three full plates of food which he chomped down and devoured, he then went for more. I guess this was alright because it was an event that he was comped. There wasn't a happy, or in his case, and unhappy meal in sight. I think the trouble stems to an event in his childhood, in which he suffered from an intestinal blockage due to his inability to digest the several dozen happy meals toys he ate, and it required a procedure to remove them without them losing their collectable value.
Paul Leonard April 18, 2011 at 10:52 PM
Hi Mitch, Mr. Comrie has been very open about his weight problems and how they have influenced his advocacy in terms of a push for healthier eating habits for children. So I'm unsure what your point is here. As for comments, we ask that our readers keep it civil and on topic. Comments that do not fit either of those parameters will be deleted. Thanks again for reading.
Mitch Schwadron April 19, 2011 at 06:52 AM
Yes, but picking on a national Icon was a political decision that Mr. Comrie was chosen for because he is a likeable guy, with no bad things attributable to him, no hints on scandal, no nothing. If they had chosen as an advocate someone in tip top shape, then this program would have had no tread, no grip. If he had been just a little over the ideal weight from the Metropolitan life tables, then he still would not have been as convincing as someone who is morbidly obese, lecturing family's on their eating habits. So because Leroy is a good guy, and a friend of my friend Mike, I apologize for anything I may have said or transmitted that may have been objectionable. I just don't think that they were expecting the type of reaction that Leroy received when this program began. But he really was a smash in that yellow humpty dumpty outfit from the Queens Political review a couple of years ago.

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