Research brief on study that identified limited implementation of California’s Healthy Default Beverage law

Nov 4, 2022

A new research brief developed by the Nutrition Policy Institute describes a study that identified limited implementation of California's Healthy Default Beverage Law (SB 1192) for orders made online. The law requires restaurants selling children's meals that include a beverage to make the default beverage water, sparkling water, flavored water with no added natural or artificial sweeteners, or unflavored milk or non-dairy milk alternative. Researchers randomly sampled 226 fast food restaurants located in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program-Education (SNAP-Ed) eligible census tracts in California and “ordered” 631 kids' meals from restaurant websites and three popular online ordering platforms. Researchers recorded beverage offerings as well as additional charges (“upcharges”) for beverages. Findings indicate that only 6% of orders reflected optimal implementation of the Healthy-by-Default Beverage law. Further, 41% of orders that offered water had an upcharge ($0.51 on average) and 11% of orders that offered unflavored milk had an up charge ($0.38 on average). No observations had upcharges for soda. The findings indicate that, in order to support California's SNAP-Ed goal for reducing sugar sweetened beverage intake, specific language, monitoring, and future legislation may be necessary to ensure the law is applied to online-ordering and in-restaurant self-service kiosks. The study and research brief were authored by NPI's Cal Fresh Healthy Living Evaluation Unit, including Hannah Thompson, Ron Strochlic, Sonali Singh, Kaela Plank, Anna Martin, and Gail Woodward-Lopez.

By Katherine Lanca
Author - Graduate Student
By Danielle L. Lee
Editor - Director of Communications & Research Engagement
By Ron Strochlic
By Christina EA Hecht
Editor - UC ANR Nutrition Policy Institute Academic Coordinator