Statement of CSPI policy associate Sara Ribakove
Lawmakers in Prince George’s County, Maryland introduced legislation today to help address sugary drinks and other unhealthy foods sold with restaurant meals marketed to kids.
The bill will ensure that healthier beverages like water, low-fat milk, or 100 percent juice are the default drinks with restaurant children’s meals, rather than soda or other sugary drinks. Sugary drinks are a health equity issue. People of color are targeted by the sugary drink industry and disproportionately experience nutrition-related chronic diseases. While parents can still request a different beverage for their children, they will no longer have the unhealthiest drinks pushed on their kids as the default option.
Notably, the bill also is the first in the country that would ensure that at least one kids’ meal on the menu will meet expert nutrition standards. Of course, most restaurants should aspire to make most, if not all, of their kids’ meals healthy. But what a relief for Prince George’s parents to know that there would be at least one meal combination on the menu that experts would recommend for a child.
If the bill passes, Prince George’s County will join cities including Baltimore, Cleveland, and Philadelphia, in addition to the states of California, Delaware, and Hawaii that have passed bills to address the beverages that come with restaurant kids’ meals.
The bill, sponsored by Council Member Sydney J. Harrison, would be the most comprehensive kids’ meal bill to pass to date. The Prince George’s County healthy kids’ meal bill will support the health of children who live in or visit the county. It is a model for other cities and states, and is a signal to the restaurant industry that it’s time to stop pushing soda and unhealthy meals on little kids.
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