OLYMPIA – A bill that would require restaurants in Washington to offer healthier drink options for any children’s meal on the menu that includes a beverage was approved by the Senate on Thursday.
“With this bill, we’re asking all of our restaurants in Washington to feature menus that are healthy, and promote healthy beverages for healthy kids,” said the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Marko Liias, D-Lynnwood. “It’s a good step forward to improving health in our communities and encouraging families to make healthier choices for their families and kids.”
SB 6455 would require the default beverage offered 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.
Restaurants would retain the option to serve children alternative beverages upon request.
Liias introduced the bill as an effort to reduce child obesity rates and address a steadily worsening public health issue.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, adult obesity medical costs were estimated at $147 billion in 2008, and 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 serving less healthy beverages with children’s meals.
“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.”
The bills now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.
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.