It looks like you CAN fight City Hall. Case in point is San Francisco, which had passed a law "that prohibited the giveaway of toys with children’s meals that did not meet certain nutritional standards," reports the SF Gate.
The law was aimed at McDonald’s, and basically banned the fast-food company from including toys with its Happy Meals.
According to the report, "Undaunted, McDonald’s [has come] up with a way to meet both the letter of the law and the spirit of parental choice: Starting today, [Dec. 1, 2011] San Francisco diners can order a toy with their Happy Meal for 10 cents – and the dime will go to charity."
The do-gooders at the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) were not amused and issued this statement: "McDonald’s decision to start charging 10 cents to have toys added to Happy Meals in San Francisco is a brazen and cynical attempt to circumvent the city’s law to encourage healthier children’s meals. It’s duplicitous for McDonald’s to claim that the toy was ever free—the cost of the toy has always been built into the cost of the meal.
"It would have been far better for McDonald’s to reduce calories, saturated fat, salt and sugary drinks in children’s meals, and to otherwise improve their nutrition by adding more fruits, non-fried vegetables, and whole grains. Other cities and state legislatures will need to prevent this workaround and protect children from toy-based junk-food marketing when they craft similar laws in the future."
Actually, TVWeek thinks it’s pretty clear that most communities will not pass such legislation, and let parents decide if they want to feed their kids Happy Meals.