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California restricts plastic straws, limits kids’ meal drinks

Governor signs new laws that go into effect Jan. 1

California’s full-service restaurants, beginning Jan. 1, will be barred from automatically providing single-use plastic straws and eateries in the state with kids’ meals will be required to make water or milk the default beverage.

California Gov. Jerry Brown signed both laws Thursday in Sacramento, Calif., making it the first state with straw restrictions. Neither bill completely bans straws or sweetened drinks.

“Plastic has helped advance innovation in our society, but our infatuation with single-use convenience has led to disastrous consequences,” Brown said in a statement accompanying the straw law.

“It is a very small step to make a customer who wants a plastic straw ask for it,” the governor said.

“And it might make them pause and think again about an alternative. But one thing is clear, we must find ways to reduce and eventually eliminate single-use plastic products.”

The California straw law, Assembly Bill 1884, allows violators to be fined, with a limit of $300 annually. Restaurants will be allowed two warnings before being fined, and the law is limited to sit-down operations where customers are waited upon. Health inspectors will enforce the law.

Sharokina Shams, vice president of public affairs for the California Restaurant Association, said the group did not oppose the straw restrictions.

“We appreciate that the bill’s author worked to try to balance environmental concerns against other factors, like the need to continue to allow consumers a choice,” Shams said in an email. “It’s important to note that the bill does allow consumers to maintain a choice. If they’d like a straw, they can ask for one.”

Brown also on Thursday signed Senate Bill 1192, which requires both quick-service and full-service restaurants that sell kids’ meals that include a beverage to make the default offering water, unflavored milk or a nondairy milk alternative.

Restaurants can still serve soda, juice or other beverages if requested by customers. The goal is to address obesity and resulting illnesses by cutting back on the number of sugary drinks kids consume.

Contact Ron Ruggless at [email protected]

Follow him on Twitter: @RonRuggless

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