The New York City Council introduced a bill last week that would prohibit restaurants from offering free toys or other giveaways aimed at children in connection with certain meals and food and beverage products. The legislation would only permit restaurants to offer “incentive items” if the meal, food or beverage which with the item is offered meets specified nutritional criteria. “Incentive item” is defined to include any toy, game, trading card, admission ticket or other consumer product with particular appeal to children, whether offered directly by the restaurant or indirectly through a coupon or voucher.

The legislation seeks to indirectly influence the types of food and beverage products that would be offered to children. For example, a restaurant would be prohibited from offering any giveaway aimed at children in combination with the purchase of a meal unless the meal has less than 500 calories, less than 600 milligrams of sodium, less than 35% of total calories from fat, with certain exceptions, less than 10% of total calories from added sugars and caloric sweeteners. Additionally, the meal would be required to contain at least one half cup of fruit or vegetables or one serving of whole-grain products. Similar nutritional criteria are set forth for single food and beverage items.

The Board of Supervisors for Santa Clara County, California passed a similar ordinance in May 2010, which we discussed as part of a client advisory here. The city of San Francisco has also enacted a similar ordinance.