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Mostly Praise for Proposed Sugary Drink Ban at City Hearing

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

soda ban The city shows just how much sugar is in different sizes of drinks. (Fred Mogul/WNYC)

The city Board of Health largely praised Mayor Michael Bloomberg's proposed size limit on sugary drinks at restaurants and other food service establishments during a hearing Tuesday.

"We know this will not solve the problem by itself," said board member Pamela Brier, who is the president and CEO of Maimonides Hospital in Brooklyn. "But I congratulate you for not letting the perfect be the enemy of the good."

The board watched to a PowerPoint presentation about the prevalence of obesity among the city's adults and children. Health official Susan Kansagra cited figures linking some of the weight gain to sugary beverage consumption.

"New Yorkers are gaining about 1.25 pounds a year on average," Kansagra said. "Cutting back on these drinks could potentially reduce that by a third."

The rule would limit sugary beverages to 16-ounce bottles, cans and cups any place the Health Department has inspection authority: fast food establishments, restaurants, deli's, food carts, institutional cafeterias and parks and entertainment concessions.

Board members asked if there was any published data suggesting such a policy would achieve its goals. Kansagra said there wasn't, but there is strong evidence reducing calorie intake can help people lose weight.

Tuesday's hearing was just a formal introduction of the proposal, so the only vote was to approve holding a public hearing next month. Opponents and supporters are expected to turn out in large numbers.

A final vote is expected in September, and the city would phase the rule in over the following nine months.

Outside the hearing, Andrew Moesel, a spokesman for the New York State Restaurant Association, said he was concerned that some board members seemed to express interest in going beyond the current proposal and limiting portions for other drinks and foods.

"What we're really concerned about is the slippery slope," Moesel said. "They say they're only concerned about soda, but if they pass this, we don't know if it'll be 16 fries on a plate or only one hotdog a day. It's a serious concern for a lot of New Yorkers who feel put upon by this administration in a lot of ways."

The city maintains choice continues to be free, since the rule doesn't prohibit consumers from buying as many smaller beverages as they want.

Kansagra said the proposed limit would "force people to make an active decision to consume more."

Moesel said someone who wanted to buy a single large beverage to go, to feed a large family, now couldn't do so.

"It's an infringement on the consumer's rights to purchase a legal product that he wants to at a time of his pleasure," he said. "It's a small infringement, but it's an infringement nonetheless."

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Comments [4]

Mark

I love the part in the Steve Jobs biography when he's trying to recruit former Pepsi exec Sculley and asks him "Do you want to waste your life selling sugar-water to kids?". Sculley, a Wharton grad used to getting his butt kissed, couldn't believe it and said he felt like he was punched in the gut. Jobs should have just let the incompetent Sculley keep pushing sugary drinks on kids since Sculley's incompetent leadership almost ruined Apple. When I hear the outrage about Bloomberg from the "sugar water industry" I just think of what a loser Sculley was. Screw those guys, stop ruining kids health with your poison.

Jun. 12 2012 07:27 PM
Emily from Weschester

Although empty calories are part of the upward trend in obesity, many other factors also impact weight. Why not provide incentives for working out? Push insurance companies to pay for gym memberships and track gym usage to receive discounts? Bring back or encourage outdoor recess? Give every child in NYC schools a BPA free water bottle and have one of the big drink manufacturers sponsor water fountains throughout the city?

This policy won't shrink waistlines; they took away transfats and the average NYer is still gaining 1.25lb/year. However, it could very well increase the amount spent on beverages as people buy multiples, increase litter and garbage as people who used to buy one big drink in the a.m. might now go get two or three throughout the day, and increase the amount people are spending on such drinks, thus profiting the companies whose products are supposedly causing the problem. It just doesn't make good policy sense. It's appealing because it is easy and grabs national attention, but I highly doubt it will have any lasting beneficial health impacts.

Jun. 12 2012 04:12 PM
Dot from Manhattan, NY

Put presure on the companies that make tons of money from selling this stuff. Stop blaming the victims.

Jun. 12 2012 12:14 PM
Charlie from NY,NY

Solution: Order 16 oz of brand X's syrup, and get 32oz or 64oz cup of water. Combined. Problem solve! Let's get fat, again!

Jun. 12 2012 09:49 AM

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