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Next year in New Orleans, kids won’t be able to order a Coke off the kids menu in restaurants.
On Jan. 6, the New Orleans City Council unanimously passed an ordinance that will require restaurants to serve water, milk, or fruit juice with kids meals, according to New Orleans Public Radio.
While the ordinance faced some pushback from the soft drink beverage industry, advocates believe this new rule will make a difference in preventing childhood obesity.
What Does the Ordinance Say about Soft Drinks on Kids Menus?
The city health department pitched the ordinance to remove soft drinks and make healthier options as the default beverages on kids menus.
New Orleans City Councilmember Cyndi Nguyen put it to a vote.
“This is really about helping our young people to stay healthy, but not taking away the rights of our parents,” Nguyen said, according to the New Orleans Advocate. “We really see this as a very simple step to educate and nudge our families towards a healthier option.”
The ordinance is part of an effort to reduce childhood obesity and give kids healthier options to choose from. The American Heart Association also supported the ordinance, according to New Orleans Public Radio.
The measure goes into effect Jan. 1, 2023, which is when city officials will begin implementation.
“The city health department will handle enforcement of the measure by reviewing the menus of new restaurants and by responding to 311 calls from customers of restaurants that fail to fall in line with the ordinance. Many national fast food chains have already adjusted their menus to accommodate laws in cities with similar measures, but New Orleans’ independent restaurants will have some work to do,” according to New Orleans Public Radio.
While the ordinance is more intended to encourage restaurants to provide healthy options, the city can enforce penalties up to $200 for violations.
Pushback Against the Ban on Soft Drinks on Kids Menus
While the ordinance was being heard by the City Council, some voiced their concerns.
A representative of the restaurant industry argued the ordinance would be a burden on restaurants that are already struggling through the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We appreciate the important issues of children’s health being raised,” Danielle Leger of the Louisiana Restaurant Association told the City Council, according to New Orleans Public Radio. “However, we ask that you will instead adopt a resolution at this time.”
Councilmember Joe Giarusso expressed concern that restaurants will find a loophole in the rule and add dessert items to kids menus instead of sodas.
However, he ultimately voted in favor of the ordinance.
How Do Sugary Drinks Impact Latino Kids?
Overconsumption of sugary drinks is a big problem for kids, especially Latino and Black youth.
New Orleans is a majority-minority city, with 60% of the population being Black and 6% being Latino.
Unfortunately, these populations also struggle with health issues like obesity.
“Latino kids who consumed sugary drinks had 2.3x the odds of severe obesity. Latino toddlers ages 2-4 who didn’t consume sugary drinks had 31% lower odds of obesity than those with a high intake,” according to a Salud America! research review.
Latino and Black kids are also more likely to be targeted by marketing from the beverage industry.
“On Spanish-language TV, four companies – PepsiCo, Coca-Cola, Dr Pepper Snapple Group, and Innovation Ventures – were responsible for 98% of sugary drink and energy drink ad spending,” according to a report from Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity.
By encouraging kids to drink more water rather than soda, we can protect Latino and Black youth health.
How You Can Help Reduce Soda Consumption?
We can help fight the negative consequences of overconsumption of soda and other sugary drinks.
Here are 5 pediatrician-approved recommendations to limit sugary drinks for kids:
- Raise the price of sugary drinks.
- Reduce sugary drink marketing to children and teens.
- Remove sugary drinks from kid’s menus. Emphasize healthy drink options.
- Add accurate nutrition labels and information.
- Hospitals should serve as models with policies to limit or discourage purchase of sugary drinks.
New Orleans isn’t alone on the list of cities taking a stance on kids menus.
Salud America! also created an Action Pack to help school leaders push for Water Bottle Fountains. This refillable water station can boost access to water for Latino and all kids.