Sugary Drinks Out of Kids’ Meals in Baltimore

Baltimore is leading the way in encouraging healthier drink choices for children.

On Wednesday, the Baltimore City Healthy Kids Meals Bill went into effect, making the city the largest metropolitan area in the United States to ban sugary drinks such as soda from kids’ menus. Signed by Mayor Catherine Pugh last April, the bill is intended to promote a healthier environment for all of the children in the city when eating out.

Restaurants within the city will now be limited to only offering 100 percent fruit juice, milk, or water with no added sweeteners in all kids’ meals. Although parents can choose to order other drinks for their children, the official menu for any meal marketed and designed for children will only offer non-sugary beverages.

According to Shawn McIntosh, executive director of Sugar-Free Kids Maryland, the ban is not intended to take choices away from parents and their children. Instead, the goal is to provide kids with only healthy choices, in an effort to encourage better decisions when it comes to choosing a beverage.

Although Baltimore is the largest city to institute a ban on sugary beverages, there are other smaller communities around the country that have already implemented the new regulations, including seven cities in California. Officials in Baltimore worked with the administrators of these pilot programs to learn from their mistakes and to ease the rollout of the initiative. Major cities including Seattle, Philadelphia, and San Francisco have recently passed legislation that places an additional tax on sodas.

The new law will be regulated and enforced through the city of Baltimore’s health department. Restaurants that are found to be in violation of the law could face a fine of up to $100. The Restaurant Association of Maryland opposes the new law, stating that the strict regulations could affect the bottom line of many restaurants by contributing to escalating costs of individually-packaged beverages.