Stand up for facts and support PolitiFact.
Now is your chance to go on the record as supporting trusted, factual information by joining PolitiFact’s Truth Squad. Contributions or gifts to PolitiFact, which is part of the 501(c)(3) nonprofit Poynter Institute, are tax deductible.
I would like to contribute
Would a California bill really limit restaurant drink options for children to "only milk and water"?
That’s the impression left by a recent segment on "Fox & Friends", an influential show that’s sometimes live-tweeted by President Trump.
"This is a state that can run amok with the regulations and the nanny state. Now they want to legislate what drinks kids can get at restaurants," claimed host Ed Henry early in the segment.
"There’s a bill that’s been proposed in the state of California (that would) only give children two options at restaurants: either milk or water," he continued.
A second host then adds: "Of course, obviously, I’m the parent, I want to be able to make that decision. Where does it go? Some people in California think dairy is bad… . Or maybe it’s wheat. So how far will this go? That’s the question."
We wanted to know: Does the bill really restrict kids drinks to only milk or water? Or is there more to the legislation?
We set out on a fact check.
The legislation in question is Senate Bill 1192 introduced by Democratic State Sen. Bill Monning. He has championed it as a way to encourage healthy beverage options for children. The bill has gained attention from many news outlets in addition to Fox and many have offered misleading or incomplete ways to describe the legislation.
The bill received final approval from the California Legislature on Aug. 21 and was sent to Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown's desk for consideration.
Here’s part of what the bill says: "This bill would require a restaurant, as defined, that sells a children’s meal that includes a beverage, to make the default beverage water, sparkling water, or flavored water, as specified, or unflavored milk or a nondairy milk alternative, as specified."
The Fox hosts generally get that portion of the bill correct.
But they leave out, until the end of the segment, any reference to a key provision of the bill:
"The bill would not prohibit a restaurant’s ability to sell, or a customer’s ability to purchase, an alternative beverage if the purchaser requests one."
The hosts also fail to mention that the bill applies only to restaurants with kids menus, though a chyron on the screen does reference kids’ meals.
A third host near the end of the segment added: "The parents have to actively ask to have soda for their children."
Based on the bill, and if their child is having a kids meal, that appears to be correct. Some restaurants have already removed soda from their kids meal menus. McDonald’s, for example, removed it in 2013, though the restaurant doesn’t turn down parents who ask for sodas with their child’s Happy Meal.
A Fox News spokeswoman declined to speak on the record about the show’s presentation of the bill.
Fox wasn't the only news outlet to leave the wrong impression. TheHill.com, a political news site, tweeted "California bill blocks restaurants from serving kids anything to drink but water, milk." Meanwhile, a patch.com news headline read "Kids Menus Can Only Have Water, Milk Under California Bill."
In an interview, Monning described the Fox segment as "misleading." He added that "Fox & Friends" appeared to have shaped the story "to fit preconceived notions" about the proposal.
Numerous health organizations support the bill and there’s no known opposition from other interest groups, according to reports by state Senate and Assembly committee staff.
During a recent "Fox & Friends" segment and on the show’s Twitter page, the claim was made:
"California is proposing to legislate what drinks restaurants can serve your kids, only giving two options: milk or water."
The claim ignores the critical fact that the bill allows restaurants, upon request, to serve children other drinks such as juice or soda.
It also disregards the fact that the bill would only apply to restaurants with a kids menu.
Two of the show’s hosts, along with a tweet following the segment, offered deceptive portrayals of the bill, leaving the average person with the impression it could be milk, water or nothing for kids at California restaurants.
A third host then noted parents could still request soda for their children.
That clarification, buried near the end of the segment, doesn’t balance out an otherwise misleading presentation.
We rate the show's claim Mostly False.
MOSTLY FALSE – The statement contains some element of truth but ignores critical facts that would give a different impression.
"Fox & Friends," segment and tweet on California Senate Bill 1192, Aug. 19, 2018
Senate Bill 1192, text, accessed August 2018
Caley Cronin, spokeswoman, Fox News, phone interview Aug. 21, 2018
California State Sen. Bill Monning, phone interview, Aug. 20, 2018
Sacramento Bee, Kids’ meals would have to be marketed with water or milk under California bill, Aug. 16, 2018
San Diego Union-Tribune, No, California isn't banning kids from drinking soda at restaurants, Aug. 20, 2018
Read About Our Process
In a world of wild talk and fake news, help us stand up for the facts.