Health

City of Davis requires milk or water with kids' meals

Taco Bell is among the restaurants in Davis that will have to start offering milk or water along with kids' meals.
Taco Bell is among the restaurants in Davis that will have to start offering milk or water along with kids' meals.
Steve Helber/AP

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The Davis City Council has voted to require restaurants that serve kids' meals to offer milk or water as the default beverage - not sugary soda. The council characterized its action as an effort to fight obesity and its related diseases.

Tuesday's unanimous vote will affect about 18 restaurants in the city - including fast food outlets such as Taco Bell, Carl's Jr. and Round Table Pizza - and some local establishments, according to the Sacramento Bee. Beginning on Sept. 1, kids' meals will have to include "water, sparkling water, or flavored water, with no added natural or artificial sweeteners," or "milk or non-dairy milk alternatives," according to the ordinance.

Under the law, parents will be able to request sodas.

Julie Gallelo, executive director of First 5 Yolo, the nonprofit that had pushed for the law, told the Bee that she believes this is the first such ordinance to specifically target beverage options in kids' meals.

There have been similar moves in the private sector. In 2006, the Walt Disney Company changed the default beverage for kids' meals at its parks and resorts to 100 percent fruit juice, water or low-fat milk. 

The Darden Restaurants chain, which in California includes Olive Garden, Red Lobster, Yard House, Seasons 52, The Capital Grille and Eddie V's, offers 1 percent milk with kids' meals. Subway restaurants offer low-fat milk.

In 2010, Santa Clara County and the city and county of San Francisco passed laws establishing nutrition standards for kids' meals that come with a toy. The standards defined a healthy beverage as getting less than 10 percent of its calories from caloric sweeteners and less than 35 percent of its calories from fat. 

One study that assessed the laws' impact on two San Francisco restaurant chains found that they started selling toys separately from their kids' meals, although one chain started offering healthier side dishes and drinks.