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'Happy Meal Ban' Takes Effect, Countered by 10-Cent Toy Fee

Fast-food restaurants in San Francisco are now charging 10 cents for toys in response to the city's so-called "Happy Meal ban" -- a move that could start a nationwide trend.

Most McDonald's and Burger King restaurants in the city by the bay began charging the 10-cent fee Dec. 1.

That's the same day a new San Francisco law kicked in, prohibiting free toy giveaways with fast-food meals that don't meet certain nutritional standards, The San Francisco Chronicle reports.

Those standards specify less fat, salt, and sugar in fast-food meals, and require more fruits and vegetables.

The law's sponsor, Supervisor Eric Mar, said he hoped it would encourage fast-food chains to go healthier, especially in light of the growing childhood obesity problem nationwide.

Instead, Mar calls the 10-cent fee a "marketing ploy" -- an easy way to technically comply with the Happy Meal ban, without having to make-over unhealthy menus.

Fast-food companies say they won't fight San Francisco's new law. Local governments are generally allowed to enact laws like this under what's known as "police powers" -- the authority to impose reasonable restrictions on private rights to ensure the public's well-being.

Fast-food franchisees are trying to put a happy face on their new 10-cent toy fees. McDonald's will donate proceeds toward building a new Ronald McDonald House in the city, for families with sick children in the hospital. Burger King has not announced plans for its proceeds.

As other locales around the country look into similar laws, San Francisco's "Happy Meal ban" has spurred McDonald's to tweak its menus. All U.S. McDonald's are set to add apples to Happy Meals, and offer smaller french-fry servings, beginning in March.

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