MENU

Reason.com

Free Minds & Free Markets

Baltimore Mulls Law to Banish Soda From Kids Menus

The government is taking an increased interest in your dining decisions.

Kids drinking sodaIsabel Poulin/Dreamstime.comThe City of Baltimore is concerned that you're ordering too many sodas for your children while out on the town. To remedy this problem, the city council is considering a bill that would take sodas off the kids menu, and fine restaurant operators who don't comply.

On Tuesday, the imaginatively titled "Healthy Beverages for Children's Meals" bill received unanimous approval from a Baltimore city council committee. The bill would require that any single-priced meal item "primarily intended for consumption by children" be offered only with water, milk, or 100 percent fruit juice. As an added precaution, the fruit juice could only be offered in 8 oz. servings.

"This bill would make the healthy choice the easy choice. It is a powerful tool to help our residents get healthy and stay healthy," said Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen in a statement supporting the legislation.

The bill is the brainchild of advocacy group Sugar Free Kids Maryland, which has sponsored such hard-hitting reforms as establishing healthy snack quotas in various county-owned vending machines, and reducing the amount of non-educational screen time children have in childcare centers.

Violators of the healthy drinks legislation would receive an environmental citation, and would be subject to civil penalties laid out in Baltimore's health code.

The bill is part of a growing trend of petty restrictions and mandates intended to nudge diners into making healthier, environmentally friendly choices, and threatening to penalize the businesses that would make it too easy for them to do otherwise.

This includes straw-on-request laws—passed by several cities in California, and being actively considered by the state legislature—where restaurant patrons would have to ask for a straw before they could legally be given one. Something similar can be said for mandated calorie counts on menus for chain restaurants. Six states have passed this "nutritional transparency" measure so far, along with a number of cities and counties.

Proponents of this healthy drinks legislation are quick to stress that parents would still be able to order a soda for their children should they wish.

"This bill will help make the healthier choice—water, milk, or 100 percent juice—easier for parents to make, while protecting their freedom to choose what they prefer for their children," said Hillary Caron of the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

What the bill doesn't protect is the freedom of businesses to offer goods and services in combinations their customers appreciate. As laws like these multiply, restaruants will have to spend more time servicing the government's preferences and not those of their patrons.

Photo Credit: Isabel Poulin/Dreamstime.com

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    100 percent juice

    If the problem is obesity, which tends to be the issue, juice is not better.

  • Kivlor||

    ^^This. Tons of sugar, whether soda or juice, leads to obesity, metabolic syndrome and diabetes.

  • Hugh Akston||

    Yeah, I buy the no-sugar added 100% cranberry juice, and it still has nearly as much sugar and calories per serving as a can of Pepsi.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    Yes, because fruit is sugar basically. Now Baltimore, please don't take this as a call for banning fruit now.

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    They still have Gay Pride parades, right?

  • NoVaNick||

    Actually, all cranberry juice has sugar added-cranberries by themselves are very bitter.

  • mpercy||

    Not if you believe the descriptions

    Ocean Spray

    100% Juice Cranberry

    It's 100% juice made with the crisp, clean taste of real cranberries straight from the bog. Plus, it has no added sugar, a daily dose of vitamin C, and one cup of fruit, so it tastes good and it's good for you, too.

    "it has no added sugar"

  • NoVaNick||

    They usually blend it with apple juice to sweeten it, which is better than adding sugar I suppose.

  • Zeb||

    The trick there is that it is 100% juice, but not close to 100% cranberry juice. Those blends usually use apple or grape juice as a base instead of water and corn syrup. I really don't like them because I don't want my cranberry to taste like apple juice.

    You can get 100% cranberry juice. But you probably don't want to drink very much of it straight. It is extremely acidic and astringent.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    It's a good mixer. And I secretly believe it's a good medicine every now and then. Probably because my friend used it to help with UTIs.

  • ||

    Actually, all cranberry juice has sugar added-cranberries by themselves are very bitter.

    Also they're not exceedingly juicy.

  • Hugh Akston||

    Right. Cranberry juice is mostly apple and grape juice that has a bag of cranberries ritually passed over it.

  • Zeb||

    All cranberry juice cocktail has sugar added and is highly diluted. Straight juice is powerful stuff.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

  • ||

    If the problem is obesity, which tends to be the issue, juice is not better.

    I freely admit that I have the same problem with the sugars/calories in milk as well. I tolerate lactose in a manner that puts cultural libertarians to shame.

  • ||

    brainchild

    Is there some sort of media courtesy dictate that prevents this from being called a brainfart? I can't imagine that such a courtesy universally trumps accuracy.

  • Hugh Akston||

    Man Baltimore must be a utopian paradise if this is the piddling bullshit the city council is devoting its time to.

  • Griffin3||

    Is this the same Baltimore school district where they had not a single high school student pass the standardized proficiency exam in math? Or the one where they sent the memo out to change everyone's grades to pass (but for four designated failures), even if the students had never attended class that year?

    I came to say something about priorities, but I can't even.

  • NoVaNick||

    Or the one where they sent the memo out to change everyone's grades to pass (but for four designated failures), even if the students had never attended class that year?

    Close-that was a public school in DC I believe. Same difference pretty much...

  • Cynical Asshole||

    Probably could have been anywhere, really. They're just the ones that were sloppy enough to get caught.

  • Griffin3||

    Sorry, I should have been more clear. The link was not a reaction gif, it was a Zerohedge article with no less than 13 money quotes about grade rigging and fraud in Baltimore schools. Along with a response from the Baltimore school district, where the City Schools CEO complains that:

    the sensational tone of the news reporting about it are disheartening

    You betcha.

  • Kivlor||

    The issue here isn't the kids menus, or the restaurants putting soda on the menu. It is parents. If you don't want fat kids, don't let your kids have tons of sugar, and keep them from overeating.

    Kids tend to resemble and emulate their parents. If you drink lots of soda, eat unhealthy foods, eat way too much and are overweight, you are setting the example for your children. If you don't want your kids to be unhealthy, then be healthy.

    Interestingly, we are probably taking the wrong approach to health. There is this weird notion that if only we could educate people on what is good for them, then they would change their habits. But all evidence seems to disprove this hypothesis. There was a great study on obesity done through the CDC and Kaiser Insurance called the ACE's study and they found that counseling on eating doesn't help.

    Most fat people know what is healthy and they choose not to behave that way for other reasons. The 10 question ACE's quiz has been very indicative of health issues and therapy for underlying issues, particularly childhood trauma, abuse and neglect has been shown to have a real affect on individuals weight long term.

  • NoVaNick||

    We seldom have soda at home, but when we go out to McDs or a similar place, I do not deny myself or my two sons a Dr Pepper. My guess is that these obese kids are guzzling 3 liter bottles at home-so this law will have no effect, but will make the proggies feel good about themselves.

  • Cynical Asshole||

    this law will have no effect, but will make the proggies feel good about themselves.

    Isn't that what's really important? /sarc

  • Kivlor||

    They are almost certainly guzzling it at home.

    My kids are 3 and under, but I don't let any of them have soda. When they're much older, I'll introduce it in controlled amounts, such as at a restaurant, or an occasional single can on the weekends. I seldom keep soda in the house because the only time I drink it is if I'm having it with some whiskey or rum and I drink rarely enough that a 12-pack goes bad before I can go through it.

  • ||

    Kids tend to resemble and emulate their parents. If you drink lots of soda, eat unhealthy foods, eat way too much and are overweight, you are setting the example for your children. If you don't want your kids to be unhealthy, then be healthy.

    From a libertarian perspective I don't disagree. The best you can do from your kids is set an example, motivate them, and hope for the best. From a biological/demographic perspective, I disagree. The proportional shifts in relatively small time frames strongly indicate that kids are not behaving like their parents necessarily want or exemplify.

    The 10 question ACE's quiz

    Before your 18th birthday, did a parent or other adult in the household often or very often…
    push, grab, slap, or throw something at you?
    or
    ever hit you so hard that you had marks or were injured?

    Between baseball and football, I don't see how I answer this question with a 'No'.

  • Kivlor||

    That wouldn't count. It's about parenting. So, did mom/dad/guardian/family hit you as punishment or out of anger so hard you had marks.

    Sports don't count.

    But seriously, if you have 4 yes answers you are 12 times more likely to attempt suicide than the general population. Obesity rates soar. It's an amazing study, with thousands of participants, all of whom were wealthy/high income enough to afford Kaiser's best plan.

  • Sometimes a Great Notion||

    "particularly childhood trauma, abuse and neglect has been shown to have a real affect on individuals weight long term."

    Can't be this; not in Baltimore.

  • NoVaNick||

    Nah-just raise the soda drinking age to 21. That's where you want to go anyway-dipshits!
    SF, NYC, and Seattle are furious that they have been out-progtarded by Baltimore.

  • Cynical Asshole||

    just raise the soda drinking age to 21. ...
    SF, NYC, and Seattle are furious that they have been out-progtarded by Baltimore.

    Ironically you've just given SF, NYC, and Seattle public health nannies a sure fire way to get back on top.

  • Brandybuck||

    First they took the beer and wine away from my kids. Now they want to take the sodas as well.

    What?!?!? No fatty iced coffee drinks for my kids either? Shit...

  • Sometimes a Great Notion||

    The city should just put out some more Slogans like these gems.

    Slogan: "The City that Reads"
    Graffiti Artist change to " "The City that Bleeds"

    Slogan: Charm City
    Graffiti: Harm City

    Slogan: "The City of Champions"
    This is was after Hasim Rahman won the heavy championship. Such a winner that no one remembers him.

    Slogan: "Get in on it"
    John Waters: "It's not catchy. I keep having to ask what it is again, because I forget. That's OK. I don't hate it. I get what they're saying. What they're saying is, come celebrate real-estate porn.

  • NoVaNick||

    There was also Martin O'Malley's slogan: "The Greatest City in America" - by far the best use of irony IMO.

  • Cynical Asshole||

    "The Greatest City in America"

    Saying it automatically makes it true, right?

  • Sometimes a Great Notion||

    It does if old Marty says it. This is the guy who taxed the rain after all; Canute had to give up his title to him.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    This bill would make the healthy choice the easy choice.

    I like that they use the word choice twice. It makes me feel that I'm retaining my ability to choose.

  • ||

    Your bringing it up forced me to shoot my inner 'choice/option' grammar-nazi zombie.

    Thanks.

  • BYODB||

    Well, you see, now that everyone's health is the business of everyone else via the ACA it's only logical to regulate everyone's food intake by a broad metric to save the State money.


    Of course, after you're no longer useful to society a red gem will light up in your hand and you will ascend and no longer be a fiscal burden on your neighbors. If you don't comply, obviously you will be hunted down and shot. For societies good, you understand.


    /sarc

  • BYODB||


    "This bill would make the healthy choice the easy mandatory choice. It is a powerful tool to help our residents get healthy and stay healthy," said Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen in a statement supporting the legislation.


    Fixed that for her.

  • BYODB||


    Proponents of this healthy drinks legislation are quick to stress that parents would still be able to order a soda for their children should they wish.

    Then why make such a law at all, one might ask?

  • netizen||

    My kids school makes a big deal about healthy choices. They offer 2% chocolate milk, but no whole milk everybody knows that makes kids fat.

  • Zeb||

    One of the things that irritates me about stuff like this is that it treats restaurants as if they need to provide everyone with perfect nutrition.
    If you are taking your kids out to eat it's often a special thing. Why not have soda part of the treat? If parents don't want their kids to order soda, they can tell the waiter.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    If parents don't want their kids to order soda, they can tell the waiter.

    Check out Zeb as he "slides toward individualism".

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Your body, not your choice.

  • BYODB||

    'Our Body, Not Your Choice'

    Fixed that for you. Recall that since healthcare is now a right I have a right to dictate what you do with your body since I'm helping to pay the cost of maintaining it.

    Welcome to the brave new world...

    /sarc

  • Mickey Rat||

    Dear Baltimore City Council,

    You are exceeding your scope of work. Please refrain for passing legislation that does not have to with governing actual city functions.

    That they did this at all is bothersome, that none of them objected to it on any sort of principle is angering.

  • Leader Desslok||

    Shorter version:

    Dear Baltimore City Council,

    Fuck of slavers!

  • croaker||

    Perhaps if someone parked a woodchipper on the steps of city hall...

  • Cynical Asshole||

    The bill is the brainchild of advocacy group Sugar Free Kids Maryland

    Wait, I thought SugarFree wasn't allowed within 500 ft of children or areas where children are likely to congregate.

    ...which has sponsored such hard-hitting reforms as establishing healthy snack quotas in various county-owned vending machines, and reducing the amount of non-educational screen time children have in childcare centers.

    Good God, they sound like the worst bunch of busybody, paternalistic, nanny-statist harpies imaginable. Like if Tipper Gore somehow managed to have a baby with Candy Lightner (founder of MADD) and Ralph Nader.

  • Jerryskids||

    I think allowing children to have soda drinks should be treated as child abuse. You are responsible for your child's well-being and as such should be making sure they get a healthy diet. Instead of 12 ounces of Coke, you need to be making sure they get their 12 healthy servings of carbohydrates just like the government recommends. A bowl of Lucky Charms, a half-dozen donuts, and a can of Spaghetti-O's is the breakfast of champions.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

  • Griffin3||

    LOL. "If raising the minimum wage doesn't put everyone in Seattle out of work, we MUST find some other way to reduce employee hours!"

    recommendations from the community task force and adopt a head tax (also called an employee-hours tax) or something similar by March 26.
  • Cynical Asshole||

    As noted above, they have to get back in the lead of the Progtard race to utopia somehow. They've been passed by Baltimore, for fuck's sake!

  • BYODB||

    Well, it looks like Amazon and Starbucks will be leaving the city. Kudos, Seattle. You're trying to eat your golden geese at a truly alarming rate.

  • Rhywun||

    Wouldn't it be cheaper to just buy them all one-way bus tickets to San Francisco?

  • croaker||

    Half a helicopter ride would be even cheaper. And you wouldn't need to feed the sharks in Chesapeake Bay.

  • Quo Usque Tandem||

    "People don't want to keep talking. They want to reach a conclusion," To said.

    For God's sake, we have to DO SOME THING!

  • croaker||

    I'm mulling the city council's need to be feet-first through a woodchipper.

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    This is just like libraries. Libraries can't stock all books, so they have to select some and reject most. Same for cafeterias, restaurants, and food carts. They can't stock all drinks, so they have to select some and reject most.

  • croaker||

    This is what happens when you fail to use woodchippers for their proper political purpose.

  • buybuydandavis||

    "100 percent juice"

    Most juices are sugar and water, little better than kool aid

    Look at some "100% juice" label
    Apple or grape juice are the first ingredients
    Sugar water

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online