New NPI research brief on the implementation of healthy default beverage policies for restaurant kids' meals

Aug 20, 2020

At fast food and sit-down restaurants across California, kids' meals come with water or milk automatically. At least, that should be the case since state law requires restaurants to offer the healthy beverages by default to reduce the amount of sugary beverages served to children. California Senate Bill 1192, authored by Sen. Bill Monning (D-San Luis Obispo), went into effect in January 2019, but research by the UC ANR Nutrition Policy Institute (NPI) has found that implementation has not been universal. The results, along with results from a similar study in Wilmington, Del., were published in an issue brief Aug. 20 on Before the law, 10% of menu boards observed by the researchers in California list only the healthy beverages. Data collected after the law went into effect showed 66% of menu boards list the healthy default beverages. NPI researchers also collected data on the proportion of cashiers who verbally offered only healthy beverages with kids' meals when orders were placed. This happened only 5% of the time before the law was enacted, and dropped to 1% after. The law doesn't specify whether the cashier must offer the default beverages, but the spirit of the law suggests they should, as it would likely have a greater impact on the selections that children and parents make. In interviews with NPI researchers, most restaurant managers expressed support for the legislation, but didn't know much about it. The research brief was written by NPI researchers Lorrene Ritchie, Phoebe Harpainter, Marisa Tsai, Gail Woodward-Lopez and Wendi Gosliner in collaboration with lead author Allison Karpyn and Laura LessardJesse Atkins, Kathleen McCallops and Tara Tracy of the University of Delaware. The research was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and by the California Department of Public Health with funding from the United States Department of Agriculture. Read the full research brief online.