Soda on children’s menus could fizz out in New Hampshire

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Fewer children will wash down their chicken fingers and fries with soda if a bill limiting beverage choices for restaurant children’s meals gets through the New Hampshire Legislature.

The bill would apply to restaurants that serve children’s meals that bundle together food and a beverage for one price. Drinks served with such meals would be limited to milk, 100 percent juice or juice combined with water, plain water, or flavored water with no sweeteners. Customers still could purchase soda or other sugary drinks on the side.

One of the bill’s sponsors told a House committee Wednesday he realizes opponents will portray it as a move toward a “nanny state.” But he took a different view.

“A nanny is a person who cares for, protects and teaches small children, so being a nanny is not necessarily entirely a bad thing,” said Democratic Rep. Timothy Horrigan. “If this bill is passed, children will be protected from the unhealthy effects of artificial sweeteners and excessive sugars, and they will learn to develop healthier dietary habits.

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The New Hampshire Restaurant and Lodging Association opposes the bill. Mike Somers, the group’s president, asked lawmakers to imagine the scene that could ensue when a family orders a meal and is told a child’s soda will cost extra.

“This just ends up becoming a PR nightmare for a restaurateur,” he said. “We would respectfully ask you to not put this burden on us.”

Seven cities in California, the county of Santa Clara, California, and the city of Lafayette, Colorado, all have passed ordinances on healthy default beverages for restaurant children’s meals, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest. Similar statewide legislation is pending in Vermont, Hawaii, Massachusetts and New York.

Restaurants also are slowly moving in that direction, said Hillary Caron, the…

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