Bill would require kids’ menus to offer healthy beverages

Children would still be able to order a soda for their meal, but healthier choices would be the default.

OLYMPIA — Restaurants across the state might soon be required to provide a healthy beverage option in kid’s meals.

Under SB 6455, the default beverage for a kids’ meal would have to be either water, sparkling water, flavored water with no added sweetener, unflavored milk or a non-dairy alternative to milk containing fewer than 130 calories per container. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Marko Liias, D-Lynnwood, passed through the Senate on Thursday and is headed for the House.

“With this bill, we’re asking all of our restaurants in Washington to feature menus that are healthy, and promote healthy beverages for healthy kids,” Liias said in a news release. “It’s a good step forward to improving health in our communities and encouraging families to make healthier choices for their families and kids.”

Restaurants could still offer pop in kids’ meals, according to the bill, but a healthier alternative has to be the default option.

“This isn’t an attempt to force restaurants to sell one product over another,” Liias said. “There are no heavy mandates here. But with obesity rates trending in the wrong direction, all ideas need to be on the table to address this serious public health issue.”

At the capitol Thursday, the 25-22 vote to pass the bill fell mostly along party lines.

Democrats Steve Hobbs, of Lake Stevens, Dean Takko, of Longview and Mark Mullet, of Issaquah, joined Republicans in opposing the bill.

“I am baffled by this bill,” said Sen. Keith Wagoner, R-Sedro-Wooley, during debate on the Senate floor. “This is government overreach in the worst way. We’re literally telling restaurants what to put on the menu.”

During debate, senators introduced amendments to include chocolate milk and various juices as healthy alternatives.

Proponents of the bill rejected those provisions because the drinks contain too much sugar, Liias said.

In the other state chamber, a companion bill would enact the same requirements as the Senate beverage bill.

HB 2383, whose sponsors include Rep. June Robinson, D-Everett, and Rep. Strom Peterson, D-Edmonds, advanced out of the House Committee on Local Government Wednesday. No date has been set for a floor vote.

The 2020 legislative session is set to end March 12.

Herald writer Jerry Cornfield contributed to this article.

Joey Thompson: 425-339-3449; Twitter: @byjoeythompson.

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