Passage of NYC Big-soda Ban Earns Cheers, Jeers

The decision by New York City’s Board of Health to pass a controversial rule banning sales of sodas and other sugary drinks larger than 16 ounces at delis, restaurants, movie theaters, street carts, sports arenas, corner stores and bodegas has predictably sparked diverging reactions from various industry observers.

“It is the responsibility of city and state health departments to prevent disease,” noted Michael F. Jacobson, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group Center for Science in the Public Interest, “and to make a dent in expensive and debilitating conditions such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease and other health problems, it makes perfect sense to act to discourage and reduce soda consumption. Soda and other sugary drinks are the single biggest source of calories in the American diet and provide nothing of value, only empty calories from high-fructose corn syrup or other sugars, and a bunch of other questionable chemicals.”

Jacobson’s hope was “that New York’s action emboldens other health departments and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to limit serving sizes and use other measures to reduce consumption.”

On the other end of the spectrum, New Yorkers for Beverage Choices, a coalition of restaurants, movie theaters, New York businesses and citizens, is “exploring all avenues to challenge the board’s ruling, including in court.”

“The fix was in from the beginning, and the mayor’s handpicked board followed their orders by passing this discriminatory ban, but it has not passed with the support of New Yorkers,” said Liz Berman, president of Clifton, N.J.-based Continental Food & Beverage Inc., and chairwoman of the coalition, which argues that the ban will hurt area businesses. “It’s sad that the board wants to limit our choices. We are smart enough to make our own decisions about what to eat and drink.”

New Yorkers for Beverage Choices points to data that city residents don’t support the ban, including a recent poll conducted by The New York Times, which found that 60 percent of respondents thought it was a “bad idea,” with a majority saying that such a rule limited people’s freedom of choice.

Of the nine-member health board, eight voted for the rule and one abstained. Enforcement is expected to be carried out by an existing corps of city restaurant inspectors, and a violation would result in a $200 fine.

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