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Comrie praises new Happy Meal menu

City Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans) said he’s happier now that America’s largest fast food chain is rethinking its menu for kids.

Comrie, who introduced legislation in April that would penalize restaurants that sold toys with fatty meals, applauded McDonald’s for altering its Happy Meals to include more healthy options, such as fruit and other produce.

“Obesity is a national epidemic, particularly among youth, and today McDonald’s has demonstrated good corporate citizenship by acknowledging the need for healthier options in their menu,” he said in a statement.

Starting in September, McDonald’s will automatically include produce or low fat dairy options in the Happy Meals, according to the chain. The menu for the kid’s meal will also have a quarter cup of apple slices and a smaller portion of French fries, McDonald’s said.

The restaurant has long-term plans to promoting healthier options as well.

New Happy Meal ads will run that teach kids the value of eating healthy and McDonald’s has pledged to reduce added sugars, saturated fat, sodium and calories over the next couple of years.

“For more than 55 years we have been evolving our menu and nutrition choices to fit our customers’ growing needs,” McDonald’s said in a statement.

Comrie, who has been active in the fight against childhood obesity and has been candid about his own weight issues in the past, said the change would benefit families in southeast Queens who do not have that many options for good restaurants.

The councilman added that obesity is worse in his district because of the lack of healthy food stores.

“I believe that ‘Happier & Healthy’ Meals for our children will be better for our youth and also better for McDonald’s’ sales margin,” he said.

Comrie’s bill called for a $200 to $2,500 fine on eateries that offer toys in meal packages that have more than 500 calories, 600 milligrams of sodium and high percentages of saturated fat.

A similar bill was signed into law in San Francisco.

In May, the Council approved a new zoning plan for southeast Queens that includes discounts to food stores that sell healthy products as part of the city’s Food Retail Expansion to Support Health program. The city Health Department found that the neighborhood’s residents had insufficient access to fruits and vegetables.

Comrie said he would continue to push for fast food companies to think about how their foods affect communities.

“Ultimately, the final responsibility rests with parents who are purchasing these meals for their children. However, I believe that fast food businesses, which invest millions of dollars in marketing their products to children, have a moral responsibility to provide their customers with safer, healthier options,” he said.

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at ipereira@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

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