Chicago proposes a new limit on kids meals

A proposal currently before the City Council would prevent restaurants from including sugary beverages in kids meals unless parents specifically request them.
Photograph: Shutterstock

Chicago is eyeing legislation that prohibits restaurants from including sugary drinks in kids meals unless those options are specifically requested by parents or guardians.

Under the proposal submitted Wednesday to the City Council by Mayor Lori Lightfoot and the city’s Department of Public Health, the default beverages for meals marketed specifically for children would be limited to water, pure fruit or vegetable juices and milk or nondairy substitutes.

“Children don’t need marketing that encourages unhealthy behavior—and parents don’t need extra pressure to serve their kids unhealthy food,” Lightfoot said in a statement. “By banning such marketing while protecting parental choice, this ordinance will help empower parents to make the right choice for their families.”

In airing the proposal, civic officials noted that children routinely consume two to three times the amount of sugar that’s recommended for youngsters, usually by downing soda and other sugary beverages.

They also note that the measure would bring Chicago into compliance with a new state law aimed at promoting children’s health, the Serve Kids Better Act. It, too, calls for a halt in serving sugary drinks as part of a kids meal unless those higher-calorie refreshers are specifically requested. 

The City Council has yet to act on the proposal, but enactment is expected.

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