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Superior rejects ban on fast food toys

SUPERIOR -- Kids can still get their Hello Kitty watches and Transformer action figures with their Happy Meal.

Councilors decided Tuesday night that they weren't going to toy with an ordinance that would ban free trinkets given away in children's fast food meals.

The council voted 7-1 to receive and file a proposal that would have banned free toys given away with unhealthy fast food meals.

Only Councilor Greg Mertzig, who proposed the ban, favored moving the ordinance through committee for development. Councilor Dan Olson abstained from the vote and Councilor Chuck Hendry was excused from the meeting.

Mertzig said his intent was not to tell businesses what they could serve the public or to tell parents what they should feed their children. His intent was to remove the reward and limit giveaways that target children and encourage them to eat unhealthy fast food meals.

While four people, including two physicians who work in pediatrics, spoke in favor of the ordinance, all were Duluth residents.

Dr. Ann Stephen of Duluth said as a working mother she had to deal with, and often lost to, the nag factor the toys created.

Working with children in a weight management clinic, Dr. Nancy Monaghan-Beery of Duluth said she sees first-hand the impact on children's health obesity has and nearly a third of Northland youth are struggling with their weight.

"Parents can and should do a better job," said Adam Bennis of Superior, who opposed the proposal. He said he didn't believe it was the government's role to take away his decision-making authority. He asked councilors if the next step was having his grocery receipts approved.

Councilor Tom Bridge said the comments in council chambers Tuesday night were typical of the large number of calls he received, expressing an opinion on the issue.

While he got a number of calls in support of the issue, none of those callers lived in Superior, Bridge said.

"No one from Superior was in support of it," Bridge said.

Shelley Nelson is the editor for the Superior Telegram, a newspaper owned by Forum Communications Co.