Baltimore mayor signs bans on foam food containers and offering sugary drinks on kids' menus

Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh signed a pair of bills at a City Hall ceremony Thursday imposing new rules on how food and drink gets sold.

One bill bans the use of foam food and drink containers in the city and the other stops restaurants from offering sodas and other sugary drinks as part of children’s menus.

Both measures passed the City Council unanimously in March. The mayor’s signatures represent small victories on public health and the environment for the younger, more progressive council elected in 2016.

The container ban outlaws the material often known by the brand name Styrofoam. Environmentalists say the containers find their way into the Inner Harbor where they break down into ever small pieces. Many restaurant owners resisted a ban, saying it would drive up food prices and that people not throwing trash in garbage cans is the real problem.

Pugh said she had supported a foam ban since her time in the state Senate.

“What we’re doing here today I think is important for our environment,” she said. “It is also important for our young people. It’s important for our city.”

The idea of a ban has been around in the council for years but Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young said it was a meeting with school children this year that finally led him to throw his support behind the idea.

“The children were the driving force,” Young said at the bill signing.

The sugary drinks law prohibits restaurants from offering sodas on kids menus, but children and their parents are still allowed to buy them if they ask specifically.

“We know we have so many problems and so many challenges around the young people in our city but above it all we have to improve their health,” said Councilman Brandon Scott, the measure’s sponsor.

Pugh said the new law would help young people lead healthier lifestyles.

“Childhood obesity as we well know is a serious problem in our communities,” she said.

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