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California Wants to Regulate Options for Kids’ Drinks

A new bill in California would affect the way that restaurants in California can market drinks, in an attempt to reduce childhood obesity.

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By James Sweet III | United States

A new bill in California would require restaurants to give children one of two initial options for drinks when ordering a meal: milk or water. Senate Bill 1192 has already passed the California State Assembly. If Governor Jerry Brown signs it, it would become the first law of its kind.

In Section 114379.20 of Chapter 12.8, it is stated that “a restaurant that sells a children’s meal shall make the default beverage offered with the children’s meal” either water or milk. However, it does not necessarily have to be plain water. The bill does allow some variations, including seltzer and flavored water.

The bill “does not prohibit a restaurant’s ability to sell, or a customer’s ability to purchase, an alternative beverage instead of the default beverage offered with the children’s meal, if requested by the purchaser of the children’s meal.” This is quite interesting, as it allows the parents to order whatever they want for their children if they are fine with letting their child drink something that’s not water or milk. It attempts to address situations in which parents allow children too many unhealthy drinks. Despite this, it does not take any firm action in this direction, as parents can easily circumvent this.

The bill defines a restaurant as “a retail food establishment that prepares, serves, and vends food directly to the consumer.” Since fast food restaurants are included in this definition, it is important to note that chains like McDonald’s already serve healthy beverages with their kid’s meals. For example, they serve Happy Meals® with organic juice or milk. Sit down restaurants, on the other hand, often do not include drinks with meals, so the bill largely does not affect them. Thus, the main target is fast food chains that do not serve healthy drinks by default.

One can only wonder if this bill will be effective in cutting down on obesity and diseases like diabetes. McDonald’s and other companies are currently taking all of the actions that the bill proposes. So, if signed, it appears that it will make few noticeable changes, but cement into law some decisions the market is already making.


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