Proposed California law would make it illegal for restaurants to serve soda as the default beverage with kids’ meals

If you’ve ever dined out with children, you’re probably aware that kids’ menus in restaurants leave a lot to be desired. In fact, the choices usually go something like this: burgers made with questionable meat and fillers, deep-fried chicken nuggets, or perhaps pizza served with a side of French fries and your choice of soft drink. There is a lot wrong with this all-too-common scenario, and while it seems unlikely to change any time soon, now California lawmakers are taking aim at the beverage part of the equation.

A new state bill, Senate Bill 1192, would give children two default options when they order meals at restaurants: unflavored milk or water. Of course, parents are already free to order whatever drinks they want for their kids, but many choose the default option that is included with meals either out of convenience or because it’s typically more economical. With so many kids’ meals automatically coming with soda, it’s no surprise that so many American kids are overweight or obese.

This bill is aimed at reducing obesity and limiting children’s access to sugary drinks. Stephanie Winn of the American Cancer Society welcomes the move, saying “Cancer is fought in the halls of government, not just in the halls of the hospital.” She believes the kids meals should not automatically come with foods that set them up for diseases now and later in life.

She told CBS affiliate KVOR: “Some of these kids are drinking up to three sodas a day. This is setting them up for tremendous cancer risks down the road. Because now we know that 20 percent of all cancers are tied to being overweight.”

Childhood obesity rising, sugary drinks play a big role

Childhood obesity is a huge problem in our nation. A recent study carried out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed that nearly two thirds of children aged 2 to 19 consume one or more sugar-sweetened drinks per day. Not only is the frequent consumption of such beverages associated with weight gain, obesity, and type 2 diabetes, but also a slew of other conditions such as kidney disease, heart disease, cavities, tooth decay, and nonalcoholic liver disease.

In July, Baltimore banned restaurants from advertising sugary drinks on children’s menus, making milk, water, and 100 percent fruit juice the default beverage choices. Similar rules have been enacted in other cities in California and elsewhere in the United States. Even McDonald’s, which is hardly a pioneer of healthy eating, stopped marketing sodas as Happy Meal drink options five years ago, although they’re still available on request.

To demonstrate the amount of sugar found in a small soda, Sacramento Assemblyman Kevin McCarty carried a cup with nine packets of sugar. He said: “Kids’ meals shouldn’t come with a side order of diabetes, obesity or cardiovascular disease.”

The fact that restaurants automatically serve soda with children’s meals is pretty shocking in today’s increasingly health-conscious world, as is the fact that some parents don’t think twice about giving their children these unhealthy drinks. That’s certainly their right, but part of the problem is a lack of awareness of the health dangers of such beverages, and the debate about this bill could help rectify that.

Nevertheless, parents who don’t care about the risks of diabetes and cancer will still be free to order soda for their kids. This isn’t really a case of the government dictating consumer choice as people can still order whatever they want; the bill does not specify that restaurants would even have to charge extra to make that change. However, the extra step could help improve the health of children who eat out in restaurants frequently. Of course, if they’re regularly ordering chicken nuggets and French fries, they are still going to have health problems, but at least they won’t be washing these foods down with excessively sugary beverages on top of it.

Sources for this article include:

comments powered by Disqus