Healthy kids’ meal movement grows with passage of New York City bill

Kid drinking fountain soda

Statement of CSPI Vice President for Nutrition Margo G. Wootan

Today, New York City joins a growing movement to stop restaurants from pushing soda and other sugary drinks on children.

The New York City Council passed legislation that will ensure that healthier beverages like water, lowfat milk, or 100 percent juice are the default drinks with restaurant children’s meals, rather than soda or other sugary drinks. While parents can still request a different beverage for their children, they’ll no longer have the unhealthiest drinks pushed on their kids as the automatic option. The bill now goes to Mayor Bill de Blasio for his signature.

The bill, sponsored by Council Member Ben Kallos and supported by Speaker Corey Johnson, garnered soda industry support—another signal that the end is in sight for soda on restaurant children’s menus. In August, the American Beverage Association and its members, The Coca-Cola Company, Keurig Dr Pepper, and PepsiCo, declared support for the legislation in New York City, and offered to support restaurants that would like to voluntarily remove sugary beverages from their kids’ menus.

Now that New York City, the state of California, and a dozen localities around the country have passed policies to replace soda and other sugary drinks in restaurant children’s meals with healthier options, all restaurants across the country should get on board and stop promoting liquid candy to kids. Though a number of large chains, including McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger King, Dairy Queen, Olive Garden, and Chipotle, have removed sugared beverages from their children’s menus, nearly 75% of top restaurant chains still push sugary drinks on kids’ menus. Sweetened drinks are a top source of calories and sugars in children’s diets and a key contributor to diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.

The New York City healthy kids’ meal bill will support the health of children who live in or visit New York, is a model for other cities and states, and is a signal to the restaurant industry that it’s time to stop pushing soda on little kids.