Soda Ban In NYC Prompts Beverage Industry Lawsuit
October 14, 2012

Beverage Industry Sues To Prevent Supersized Soda Ban In New York

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

Carbonated soda manufacturers, restaurant owners, and industry advocacy groups are among those who have banded together to file a legal challenge against New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's attempt to ban the sale of supersized sugary drinks at most dining locations city-wide, various media outlets reported late last week.

According to New York Times writer Michael M. Grynbaum, the soft-drink industry and business owners filed a lawsuit Friday seeking to overturn the sales restrictions, which were approved by the city's Board of Health in September.

The new regulations, which are set to take effect in March 2013, state that all New York City restaurants, street carts, movie theaters, and sports venues can sell sugary beverages no larger than 16 ounces in size.

One of the groups behind the lawsuit, the American Beverage Association, told Bloomberg's David McLaughlin that the city's attempt to prevent the sale of large sugary drinks represented an "unprecedented" level of "interference" with customer choice.

They added that the legislation "burdens consumers and unfairly harms small businesses at a time when we can ill afford it," and argued that the city lacked the "legal authority to adopt this beverage ban," which they called "arbitrary and capricious in its design and application.”

"For the first time, they're telling New Yorkers how much of certain safe and lawful beverages they can drink," Caroline Starke, a spokesperson of the plaintiffs, which also includes the National Restaurant Association, a soft drink workers union, and a variety of groups representing miscellaneous business owners, told the Associated Press (AP).

"It's unfair, it's inequitable and it's illegal," Starke added.

Marc LaVorgna, a spokesman for Mayor Bloomberg, dismissed the lawsuit as "predictable" and "baseless," adding that the attempt to prevent the law's enactment would "fortunately“¦ help put an even greater spotlight on the obesity epidemic."

“The Board of Health absolutely has the authority to regulate matters affecting health, and the obesity crisis killing nearly 6,000 New Yorkers a year -- and impacting the lives of thousands more -- unquestionably falls under its purview,” LaVorgna added in a written statement, according to Grynbaum.

The size restrictions applies to sugary drinks that have more than 25 calories per 8 ounces, but do not apply to drinks that are 100% juice or contain more than 50 percent milk or milk substitute. Nor does the ban pertain to lower-calorie drinks or alcoholic beverages. Sale of a regulated beverage more than 16 ounces in size would lead to a $200 fine, with New York City restaurant inspectors being charged with enforcing the rule.

"Legal action was widely anticipated from the soft-drink industry, which led an aggressive campaign this summer portraying Mr. Bloomberg´s plan as an affront to consumer freedom and has frequently opposed local regulations of its products," Grynbaum said.

"The 61-page filing offers a detailed rebuttal to Mr. Bloomberg, arguing the soda restrictions are a form of de facto legislation, enacted by 'executive fiat,' which should have been considered by the City Council," he added. "The plaintiffs say the rules represent 'a dramatic departure' from the traditional role of the health department, and they are asking a judge to reject the size limits before they are put into effect."