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State of California Passes Law Limiting Sugary Drinks Offered in Children’s Meals

On Jan. 1, 2019, a new law aiming to limit children’s intake of sugary beverages became effective. California Governor Gavin Newsom signed the “Children’s Meals” law on Sept. 20, 2018, in an effort to combat the rising obesity rate in California, which increased 250 percent between 1990 and 2016. The Children’s Meals law modifies the California Health and Safety Code to require that all California restaurants make the default beverages offered on a children’s menu: (1) water, sparkling water, or flavored water, with no added natural or artificial sweeteners; or (2) unflavored milk or a non-dairy milk alternative with no more than 130 calories per container or serving. Restaurants in California may provide or sell alternative beverages to children, but only upon the customer’s request.

Local California enforcement agencies tasked with public health and safety are responsible for enforcing the law. Violations may be cited during official inspection visits, with restaurants out of compliance first getting a warning or “notice of violation.” The first notice of violation does not result in a monetary penalty; however, a second violation within five years of the first notice of violation may result in a $250 fine, and a third violation may result in a $500 fine.

The Children’s Meals law is not the first of its kind. Cities in California, Baltimore, Maryland, and Colorado already have local ordinances that prohibit restaurants from offering sugary beverages as default drinks on children’s menus. While some cities have mandated that only an adult can request an alternative beverage for a child, the new California law merely requires that the “purchaser” of the children’s meal request an alternative beverage.

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Justin Prochnow, Greenberg Traurig Law Firm, Denver, Healthcare and Litigation Law Attorney
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Justin J. Prochnow assists companies with regulatory, business, and legal needs in the beverage, food, dietary supplement, cosmetic, medical device, and OTC industries. Justin works closely with companies to ensure regulatory compliance with statutes and regulations enforced by the Food and Drug Administration, the Federal Trade Commission and other regulatory agencies. This includes the review of product labels, labeling, advertising, websites and other marketing materials. Justin assists companies with responding to governmental and regulatory actions, including FDA...

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Sarah Goodman, Greenberg Traurig Law Firm, Philadelphia, Labor and Employment Attorney
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Sarah R. Goodman represents employers against allegations of discrimination, harassment and retaliation in state and federal courts. Sarah counsels both public and private employers on workplace matters including hiring, discipline, discharge, disability accommodations and policy development.

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Nancy Taylor, Greenberg Traurig Law Firm, Washington DC, Health Care Law Attorney
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Nancy Taylor is Co-Chair of the Health Care & FDA Practice and has advised clients on health and FDA related matters for more than two decades. She has broad experience in areas relating to the Affordable Care Act provisions, CMS reimbursement and policy issues relating to providers and plans, and she has done a significant amount of FDA regulatory work. Prior to joining Greenberg Traurig, Nancy served 10 years as Health Policy Director for the Senate Committee on Labor and Human Resources and worked on a number of significant health and FDA laws, including NLEA,...

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