Two Bronx Democratic legislators with bordering districts are on different sides of a debate over a bill that would require higher nutritional standards for any meal packaged with a toy.
State Sen. Gustavo Rivera, who introduced the legislation earlier this week, told the Gotham Gazette today that the new standards are designed to get children accustomed to eating a healthier diet.
“If parents want to feed their kids horrible stuff, god bless America, they can do that, but we know kids develop their eating habits early on and they should be given the chance to eat healthy,” he said.
But fellow state Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr., disagrees. In an email sent to the press and his constituents, he wondered how elected officials had the right to “tell moms how they should feed their children.”
“Parents struggle to do what’s best for their children, and at least so far, in this country parents are not dictated to by local elected officials about how to feed their children,” he said in his email.
A 2009 report by the office of Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand found that 62 percent of Bronx residents are overweight or obese.
Other cities have looked at ways to control the sale of toys with meals. San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors recently passed a law banning toys with meals, and the Center for Science for Public Interest is leading a national charge to push for similar laws.
McDonald’s Happy Meals may be the most well-known food products accompanied by toys. But the company said efforts to regulate the products as part of a strategy of tackling the problems of obesity are misplaced.
“We don’t think removing a toy will reduce childhood obesity,” said Cheryl Forsatz, a spokeswoman for the company. “The issue is much more complex and we are committed to giving families choices.”
Rivera said he has yet to talk to the Republican majority about his legislation, but said he expects it to be included in a package of mostly health-related bills that he called “common sense legislation.”
State Assemblyman Felix Ortiz, also a Democrat, introduced a similar bill. He did not return a phone call earlier today requesting comment.By David King on May 9, 2012, 4:41 pm
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