Berkeley Requires Healthy Food, Drinks at Checkout

Ordinance to take effect March 2021
candy bars
Photograph: Shutterstock

BERKELEY, Calif. — Encouraging customers to make an impulse buy on a chocolate bar or soda as they check out just got harder for retailers in Berkeley, Calif.

The Berkeley City Council on Sept. 22 approved an ordinance that requires stores more than 2,500 square feet in size to sell more nutritious food and beverage options in their checkout areas. Options must have no more than 5 grams of added sugars and 200 milligrams of sodium per labeled serving.

More than 25 retailers in Berkeley will be affected, including Walgreens, CVS, Safeway and Whole Foods.

The ordinance, sponsored by councilmembers Kate Harrison and Sophie Hahn, will take effect on March 1, 2021 and be enforced starting Jan. 1, 2022, according to a report from Berkeleyside. The councilmembers said it will help combat the adverse health effects—like an elevated risk for tooth decay, heart disease and Type 2 diabetes—often caused by sugar.

“It facilitates better choices for consumers, but does not limit what they can buy,” Harrison said at the Sept. 22 meeting, which was live streamed on the city’s website. “It’s not a ban, it’s a nudge. These stores still can sell candy and soda, just not at your child’s eye level in the checkout.”

Harrison said the ordinance could be good for business, helping to align displays with changing customer tastes.

City staff will dedicate funds to implement and enforce the ordinance and will work with the Sugar Sweetened Beverage Product Panel of Experts to consider recommending funding allocations and develop protocols for implementation, education and enforcement.

Harrison and Hahn gave examples of approved beverages like LaCroix Sparkling Water, Pure Leaf Unsweetened Black Tea, Capri Sun 100% Juice, V8 Low Sodium 100% Vegetable Juice and Soy Dream Enriched Vanilla Soymilk.

Snacks included Kashi Chewy Granola Bars, Sabra Hummus, Smartfood White Cheddar Cheese Popcorn and Horizon Organic Mozzarella String Cheese Stick. Gum and mints with no added sugars will also be allowed.

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