The Superior City Council voted down a proposal Tuesday that would have banned toys in fast food meals that did not meet certain nutritional standards.
Councilor Greg Mertzig proposed the ban, reasoning fast food restaurants lure children into unhealthy habits at an early age through marketing. Mertzig was the only vote on the council in favor of the ban.
“We were just testing the waters,” Mertzig said. “This was just the beginning.”
His plan would have banned toys in any children’s meals containing trans fat, more than 600 calories or more than 10 percent of caloric intake from fat.
Mertzig cited a similar San Francisco law that passed as a guideline for his proposal.
Councilor Tom Bridge, who was among those voting against the ban, said San Francisco had more money to implement a ban than Superior does.
Bridge said the ban attempted to legislate good parenting, and while the point of the proposal was solid, the real problem is how much people eat, not what, and that is more difficult to control.
“You can’t legislate against being stupid,” Bridge said.
Bridge said the only support for the ban came from outside the community, and the majority of people who spoke in support of the ban were from Duluth, Minn.
However, Mertzig said a “vast majority” of people at the council meeting, including health professionals, supported the measure.
“This ordinance in no way dictates what can and cannot be served,” Mertzig said.
Mertzig insisted passing his proposal would have been a key step in a comprehensive approach toward addressing public health through community diet and exercise initiatives.
Sixty-six percent of Douglas county residents are overweight, and 24 percent are obese. Both numbers exceed the state average, according to the county’s Department of Health and Human Services.
Dale Schoeller, University of Wisconsin professor of nutritional sciences, argued Mertzig’s law would have made it easier for parents to say no when their children want fast food.
“All of the marketing to children makes parents’ lives difficult,” Schoeller said. “It’s not as though the parents are making the decision to go there. It’s not easy for them to say ‘no.'”