ACS CAN Supports Healthy Beverages with Kids' Meals (Memo)

October 9, 2020

To:             Members, Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee

From:        Michael Davoli, New York City and New Jersey Government Relations Director


Re:            Support S-521 – Healthy Kids Meals


The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) is the non-partisan, nonprofit advocacy affiliate of the American Cancer Society (ACS) dedicated to eliminating cancer as a major health problem.  We strongly support S- 521 and its requirement that restaurants provide healthy beverages with meals designated for children.

Sugary drinks, also known as sugar-sweetened beverages, are the leading source of added sugar, and one of the leading sources of added calories in Americans’ diets. Nearly half of all added sugars Americans consume come from sugary beverages. In fact, just one 20-ounce bottle of soda has 16 teaspoons of sugar.

The 2015-2020 U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans4 and the World Health Organization recommend limiting added sugar consumption to no more than 10 percent of daily calories. The American Cancer Society’s nutrition and physical activity guidelines for cancer prevention recommend reducing consumption of added sugars and, in particular, sugary drinks.

Approximately 50 percent of the American population consumes sugary drinks on any given day, with about 10 percent of youth consuming three drinks or more. Adolescents drink more sugary drinks than other age groups. Males consume more calories from sugary drinks than females of the same age; consumption increases with age in childhood and decreases with age in adulthood.

Sugary drinks are related to cancer risk in their association with excess body weight. There is increasing evidence that exposure to excess body fat over the course of a lifetime, beginning in childhood, has adverse health consequences.

Approximately 18 percent of all cancers are caused by the combination of poor diet, physical inactivity, excess body weight and excess alcohol consumption. Excess body weight is clearly associated with an increased risk of developing at least 13 cancers, namely cancers of the breast (postmenopausal), colon and rectum, uterus, kidney, pancreas, ovary, liver, gastric cardia, gallbladder, thyroid, esophagus, meningioma, and multiple myeloma.

Delaware, California, Hawaii, New York City and many localities around the country have passed policies to replace soda and other sugary drinks in restaurant children’s meals with healthier options. This legislation ensures that the decision about sugary drinks rests with parents, and that kids are not automatically given a sugary drink that the parent did not request. Oftentimes, kids’ meals include a drink, and it is assumed that the drink will be soda, fruit drinks or other sugary drinks. The new standard would default to a healthy drink unless otherwise requested.

ACS CAN strongly supports S-521 and believes if signed into law, the bill will improve the lives and health outcomes for many New Jersey kids.

While we understand and acknowledge the unique challenge that restaurants are facing due to COVID-19, we must think about the future.  As restaurants re-open they should do so as healthier places for our kids. This small step can make a big impact on the consumption of added sugar by our youth.

We urge you to support this legislation. Thank you for your time and consideration.  Please do not hesitate to contact me at (212) 237-3853


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