City Council Speaker Christine Quinn proposed Monday that the city regulate the calorie, sodium and fat content in kids' meals served at chain restaurants, in a move to seeming set herself up as the next "nanny" of New York City. NY1's Grace Rauh filed the following report.
A grilled cheese with fries ordered off the kids menu at Applebee's packs a punch. It contains 21 grams of saturated fat — three times as much as the federal government allows in elementary school meals.
"Applebee's is having a big problem here. Their children's meal is way more than the USDA thinks a child should have in one meal, for saturated fat," City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said Monday.
Speaking at Union Square, the Democratic mayoral candidate said meals marketed to children at other chains, like Taco Bell and TGI Friday's, are not much better. Quinn said she has a plan to change that, by forcing chain restaurants in the city to follow strict nutritional rules for items on their children's menus.
She said the meals should contain no more than 650 calories, seven grams of saturated fat and 740 mg of sodium. Those are the same limits the U.S. Department of Agriculture puts on elementary school lunches.
"If you are going to send that message to parents that this meal is good for a child, we are going to make sure we actually know it is good for a child," Quinn said.
The speaker said the children's menu regulations could be imposed by the city's Board Of Health or by the City Council. Either way, it seems certain they would face legal challenges and wind up in court.
"The City Council, the mayor, the government shouldn't be dictating what customers can eat in restaurants or how those restaurants can market to the customers," said Andrew Moesel of the New York State Restaurant Association.
It is a surprising proposal from a politician who did not embrace Mayor Michael Bloomberg's plan to restrict the sale of large sugary drinks.
Quinn said in June 2012, "The person who doesn't now understand why its bad to drink 18-ounces of sugared soda is simply going to get two 10-ounce sodas."
The speaker said under her plan, parents can decide to feed their children whatever they like. She said it is just the restaurants that will be prohibited from marketing unhealthy food to its youngest patrons.