A measure that will allow inspectors from the Chicago Department of Public Health to enforce a new state law that will require restaurants to offer water, juice and low-fat milk with children’s meals advanced unanimously Thursday.
Under the law, parents can still request drinks with sugar, including soft drinks, for their children.
The unanimous vote by the Chicago City Council’s Health and Human Relations Committee came more than a month after Mayor Lori Lightfoot introduced the measure as a necessary tool in the fight against childhood obesity — without mentioning that Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed a law requiring the change in August.
The state law, which applies in Chicago as well as the rest of the state, took effect Jan. 1. It was supported by the Illinois Beverage Association and the Illinois Restaurant Association.
A final vote by the Chicago City Council is set for Wednesday.
Dr. Alison Arwady, the commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, told alderpeople the ordinance would allow inspectors to cite restaurants for not following the state law.
Despite the ordinance’s limited power, Lightfoot touted the proposal after the Dec. 15 City Council meeting, telling reporters she was determined to stop children from “reflexively being given really high-caloric, very high sugary drinks” like “Slurpee-type” drinks.
Lightfoot did not mention the state law that was set to take effect just 16 days later, and appeared to anticipate a fight over the measure even though it already had the support of industry groups and passed the General Assembly without serious debate.
“This is saying, ‘When you’re serving a child, serve them something that’s healthy. Give ’em that as the first option,’” Lightfoot said. “Pure and simple. I’m sure there will be some that oppose it. That’s OK. This is the right thing to do.”
Under the state law, local health departments are allowed to issue a warning for the first offense, $25 fines for second offenses and $100 fines for subsequent offenses.