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Changes to Beverage Selection in Children’s Meal

Published June 12, 2019

A new California law requires restaurants that sell children’s meal that includes a beverage, to make the default beverage water, sparkling water, or flavored water or unflavored milk or a non-dairy milk alternative. However, the law does not prohibit a restaurant’s ability to sell, or a consumer to request, an alternative to the default beverage.

Codified under CA HLTH & S § 114379.10, the law is based on trends of obesity amongst children that have been increasing throughout the years.  To support the legislation, the law notes that children who are obese are twice as likely to become obese adults and are at greater risks for health issues such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, certain cancers, asthma, depression, and other debilitating diseases. Obesity-related health conditions incur a national medical burden of $147 billion annually, which approximately one-half of these costs are paid through tax funding programs. California makes up for roughly $9.1 billion of those national medical expenses. Since time shortage prevents families from preparing healthy food, American children least 25% of their calories from fast food restaurants. Therefore, one of the Legislative intent is to support parent’s efforts to feed their children nutritiously by providing healthy beverages as the default option in children’s meals.

There exist penalties for violators. The first violation results in a violation notice; a second violation within a five-year period from the notice of violation is punishable by a fine of not more than two hundred fifty dollars ($250). For a third or subsequent violation within a five-year period, the fine shall be not more than five hundred dollars ($500).