Back in 2015, Davis became the first in the state to move away from soda as the default beverage for kids’ meals.
At the time, staff noted, “Sugary beverages play a central and unique role in the obesity epidemic. Studies have found a significant link between sugary drink consumption and weight gain in children. Soda and sugary beverages are the single largest source of calories in children’s diets, and provide nearly half of kids’ added sugar intake.”
Now it has become state law – and in fact, it has gone a step further, moving away from juice as a default beverage as well.
Senator Bill Bonning’s bill, SB 1192, was signed into law by Governor Brown back in September. SB 1192 requires a restaurant, which serves a meal primarily targeted and marketed to children, to make the default drink option served in bundled meals a healthful beverage – water, sparkling water, flavored water with no added sweeteners, or milk.
Senator Monning noted that “our state is in the midst of a public health crisis where rates of preventable health conditions like obesity and Type-2 Diabetes are skyrocketing, due in large part to increased consumption of sugary beverages.”
He explained, “This bill is an important part of a statewide public health strategy that will better inform consumers about the unique impacts that sugary beverages have on their health and that of their families.”
Numerous cities and counties throughout the state have already implemented a healthful default beverage ordinance, and many restaurants and quick-service food establishments have already voluntarily taken steps to provide healthier drink options in their children’s meals.
Senator Monning added, “SB 1192 follows the lead of our local communities and the restaurant industry, and implements a statewide healthful default beverage policy in California, while still maintaining consumer choice.”
A statewide policy on healthful default beverage options will have a direct impact on families making healthier and more nutritious choices when they choose to eat outside of the home. Customers can still explicitly ask to replace the healthful drink with a sugary beverage at no additional cost, but the default beverage offered in a children’s meal must be a healthful option.
The victory comes just a few months after a deal with the soda industry left communities unable to enact soda tax.
In an article in the Santa Cruz Sentinel this week, Senator Monning told the paper, “We think it’s an important step forward in both education of parents and children and also having the marketplace prioritize more healthful beverages for meals that are marketed to children.”
The article cites research from the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research that found that more than 40 percent of California children drank at least one sugary beverage per day in 2014. That is “a habit that researchers have shown drastically increases a child’s risk of obesity and diabetes.”
Like in Davis, restaurants will still be able to serve soda or juice with kids’ meals on request. However, the requirement is now to opt in, rather than opt out. Moreover, “those sweetened drinks can no longer be advertised, or listed, as part of any combo meal intended for children. Sparkling water and unsweetened flavored water are permitted, as is a nondairy milk alternative.”
Restaurants will have to make the switch by January 1, 2019, or face fines up to $500 for repeated violations, with enforcement left to county health departments.
Cities including San Francisco, Berkeley and Davis have similar ordinances on the books. The bill was actually styled after Dan Wolk’s efforts in Davis.
—David M. Greenwald reporting