OLYMPIA – The Senate Health and Long Term Care committee held a public hearing today on a bill from State Sen. Marko Liias, D-Lynnwood, that would require restaurants to offer healthier drink options for any children’s meal on the menu that includes a beverage.
SB 6455 would require the default beverage that comes with a children’s meal offered in a restaurant to be either:
- Water, sparkling water, or flavored water with no added natural or artificial sweeteners;
- Unflavored milk; or
- Any other non-dairy alternative that contains fewer than 130 calories per container or serving.
“Kids learn a lot at a young age,” said Liias. “If we can teach them healthier habits when they’re young, they’re much more likely to make healthier choices when they become adults.” [Click here for MP3 audio file]
Liias introduced the bill as an effort to reduce child obesity rates and address a steadily worsening public health issue.
According to the CDC, adult obesity medical costs were estimated at $147 billion in 2008. Medical costs for people who have obesity are $1,429 higher than those of normal weight.
Liias stressed that his legislation does not prohibit restaurants from providing less healthy beverages with children’s meals upon request.
“I wanted to make that very clear in the bill. This isn’t an attempt to force restaurants to sell one product over another. There are no heavy mandates here,” said Liias. “But with obesity rates trending in the wrong direction, all ideas need to be on the table to address this serious public health issue.” [Click here for MP3 audio file]
SB 6455 was referred to the Senate Health & Long Term Care Committee where it will receive a public hearing at 8:30 a.m. Friday, Jan. 24. An identical (companion) bill — HB 2383, sponsored by Rep. Monica Stonier (D-Vancouver) — was introduced in the House of Representatives.
The bills have until Feb. 7 to be approved by their respective committees to be eligible for further consideration this session.
The 2020 legislative session is scheduled to adjourn for the year on March 12.
Obesity facts for the U.S.
- Child obesity is estimated to cost $14 billion in direct health expenses each year.
- Nearly 1 in 5 (13.7 million) children and adolescents aged 2-19 are obese.
- Obesity rates among adults in the U.S. have risen from 15 percent in 1990 to 36 percent today.
- Obesity can lead to more serious health problems including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, musculoskeletal disorders, and cancer.
* Updated 1/24/20 to reflect Sen. Liias was unable to testify at the public hearing due to a scheduling conflict.
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