Ask and You Shall Receive: Straws and Soda with Kids’ Meals Only Available upon Request

March 2019

Over the past few years, cities have enacted laws to mandate the default drink sold with kids’ meals and only give plastic straws to consumers upon request. In September 2018, when then-Governor Jerry Brown signed SB 1192 and AB 1884 into law, California became the first state to enact these types of measures statewide. In the current legislative session, other states are following suit and proposing statewide legislation to mandate certain default drinks for kids’ meals and to ban or limit single-use plastic straws. Most of these laws define a “single-use plastic straw” as a straw predominantly made of plastic derived from either petroleum or a biologically based polymer that is designed to be used once. The following is a brief summary of the enacted and proposed laws.

Default Drinks for Kids’ Meals

California’s SB 1192 requires any restaurant that sells kids’ meals to make the default drink offered with such meal either: water, sparkling water or flavored water, with no added natural or artificial sweeteners; unflavored milk; or a nondairy milk alternative that contains no more than 130 calories per container per serving. In an effort to deter soda and other sugary drinks and encourage healthier options, the law prohibits soda, juice, and other alternative drinks from being the default drink offered with a kids’ meal. These alternative drinks are only available upon request. Additionally, the law requires that restaurant menus and advertisements for kids’ meals only show the default choices. 

California’s law mandating default drinks for kids’ meals comes after many California cities, such as Berkeley, Long Beach, and Stockton, already had enacted similar laws. Other cities and states across the country have either enacted or proposed similar legislation as well. Some cities, such as Baltimore, Maryland, Louisville, Kentucky, and Wilmington, Delaware allow fruit juice, in addition to water and milk, to be a default drink. Hawaii and Rhode Island currently have proposed legislation to set the default drink choices on kids’ meals as water, milk, or fruit juice, while Connecticut currently has proposed legislation that mirrors the requirements of SB 1192.

Ban on Plastic Straws

California’s AB 1884 prohibits full-service restaurants from providing single-use plastic straws to consumers unless requested by the consumer. “Full-service restaurant” means restaurants where consumers are seated by a restaurant employee and then a restaurant employee also takes their order and delivers their food. AB 1884 does not apply to fast-food, fast-casual, or other restaurants falling outside the definition of a full-service restaurant. 

Under AB 1884, local governments can adopt ordinances that are more restrictive than the state law. Various California municipalities have enacted similar “straw laws,” many of which apply broadly to all restaurants. Santa Barbara, California made headlines as the only municipality to allow for jail time as a penalty for repeat offenders. A whole host of cities in Florida also has enacted laws to either prohibit restaurants from providing single-use plastic straws or only provide them upon request, including Delray Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Fort Meyers Beach, Hollywood Beach, Marco Island, Miami Beach, St. Petersburg and Sanibel Island. Many of these laws allow exceptions to accommodate a disability. Other cities across the country, such as Charleston, Portland, Seattle, and Washington D.C. have enacted laws to limit a restaurant’s ability to provide straws. 

More straw laws are on the horizon. In the current legislative session, Florida, Colorado, Connecticut, Montana, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Washington have proposed state laws banning or limiting the provision of single-use plastic straws. In late 2018, California cities of Berkeley, Fremont, and Los Angeles voted for straw ban ordinances to be drafted. Similarly, Edmonds, Washington adopted resolution to ban single-use plastic straws by 2020, but has not enacted an ordinance yet, and Somerville, Massachusetts approved a straw ban ordinance to be drafted, but it has not moved past the committee level. Additionally, many companies have pledged to phase out or not to use plastic straws, including Starbucks, Disney, Marriott International, and SeaWorld.

If you need assistance complying with, or would like to know more about, these recent laws, please contact one of our Advertising, Promotions, & Social Media attorneys.