In close vote, Louisville sets content rules for children’s menus, citing child obesity; critics say law invades parental responsibility

A food-service business in Louisville will be allowed to offer a children’s menu only if it includes certain types of healthy items, under an ordinance passed by 13 Democrats on the Metro Council over “vocal bipartisan objections” from 11 other members, Phillip M. Bailey reports for the Courier Journal. “The proposal touched a nerve with many residents and council members who said such choices should be left up to parents.”

Supporters said the ordinance is needed to fight an epidemic of child obesity and is the first in the United States to set food and drink standards for children’s menus. The American Heart Association, which spearheaded the proposal, said about 12 cities, mostly in California, have adopted similar rules, Bailey reports. Mayor Greg Fischer said he plans to sign the measure into law.

The ordinance will require food service businesses “to provide a non-fried fruit or vegetables, a whole grain product or a lean protein or one 2-ounce serving of nuts, seeds, dry beans, peas or one egg,” Bailey reports. “The restaurant must make available either a water, sparkling water, flavored water with no added natural or artificial sweeteners or milk product.” Violation carries a fine of up to $100.

“Many of the council members who voted against the idea said they support the goals but that it shouldn’t be the city’s job to tell people how to eat,” Bailey writes.

“Here we go again, this is a government overreach. We continue to tell parents what they need to do with their children,” said Councilwoman Mary Woolridge, D-3rd District, one of three Democrats who joined eight Republicans in voting against it.

“Several Democrats who voted for the measure also expressed doubts that it would achieve its goals,” Bailey reports. Councilwoman Vicki Aubrey Welch, Blackwell’s co-sponsor, said it would address the local childhood obesity epidemic.

“Nearly 25 percent of Louisville sixth-graders and 18 percent of kindergartners are obese, according to the Louisville health department,” Bailey writes. “Health advocates point out that one out of three children in the United States eat fast food and thus have a higher caloric intake that can result in a poor diet, obesity and diabetes.”

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