May 31, 2012
Oversized Soft Drinks Could Be Canned By NYC Mayor Bloomberg
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is pushing for a ban on all oversized sweetened beverages in city restaurants and other establishments, administration officials said on Thursday.
If passed, the bill would prohibit hundreds of establishments in the city from offering cups or bottles containing more than 16 ounces of sugar-sweetened drinks, according to a report from the New York Times.
The ban would apply to any drink that contains more than 25 calories per 8 ounces, and less than 51 percent milk by volume as an ingredient. The ban doesn´t include diet sodas, fruit juice, alcohol, or dairy-based drinks like milkshakes, but does apply to energy drinks and sweetened iced tea.
Bloomberg´s measure is the first of its kind in the US, but not the first stance he has taken on the fight against obesity.
“Obesity is a nationwide problem, and all over the US, public health officials are wringing their hands saying, ℠Oh, this is terrible',” Bloomberg told the New York Times. “New York City is not about wringing your hands. It´s about doing something. I think that´s what the public wants the mayor to do.”
During his mayoral tenure, Bloomberg has blocked the sale of sugary beverages from vending machines in schools, and banned trans-fats from restaurants and prepared foods. He has also unsuccessfully lobbied for a state soda tax and tried to stop the purchase of soft drinks with food stamps.
The Health Department plans to propose the ban as an amendment to the Health Code at the Board of Health meeting on June 12, according to mayoral spokeswoman Samantha Levine. She said once the proposal is introduced, the health board will vote on it after three months of public comment. Because the health board recommended and supports the measure, it will likely pass.
If the measure takes effect, restaurants and other establishments would have six months from the date of adoption to comply or face stiff fines.
The measure is not getting any support from the New York City Beverage Association, however.
Stefan Friedman, spokesman for the group, told the New York Times that Mayor Bloomberg is unfairly singling out soft drinks. “The New York City health department´s unhealthy obsession with attacking soft drinks is again pushing them over the top“¦ These zealous proposals just distract from the hard work that needs to be done on this front.”
“The city is not going to address the obesity issue by attacking soda because soda is not driving the obesity rates,” he added, citing national data that calories from sugar-sweetened beverages are a small and declining part of the American diet.
But city health commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley, chairman of the Board of Health, endorsed the measure, stating sweetened drinks are in fact a major factor in the city´s increased obesity rate. Approximately 58 percent of New York´s adult residents are obese and, according to the city, about a third of adults consume one or more sugary drinks per day.
Soft drink giant Coca-Cola responded later in the day, saying "The people of New York City are much smarter than the New York City Health Department believes. We are transparent with our consumers. They can see exactly how many calories are in every beverage we serve. We have prominently placed calorie counts on the front of our bottles and cans and in New York City, restaurants already post the calorie content of all their offerings and portion sizes -- including soft drinks."
"New Yorkers expect and deserve better than this. They can make their own choices about the beverages they purchase. We hope New Yorkers loudly voice their disapproval about this arbitrary mandate."