NAACP, Beverage Lobby Challenge City's Soda Ban

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Restaurants, beverage producers and the NAACP are in court on Wednesday challenging the city’s new rule that limits the size of sugary sodas in food service establishments.

Arguments on both sides will come down to how city rules and laws are made, and who has the authority to change them.

A coalition of opponents says limiting soda size amounts to creating a new law, not just a new rule. Laws must be passed by the City Council, where many members oppose the initiative. Rules are passed by the Health Board, which is appointed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

A representative for the NAACP says the mayor should have given the public a say on soda sizes by going through the City Council, and not pushed the change through the health board, which he appointed. The organization, along with the Hispanic Federation, argues that minority-owned delis and corner stores will be at a disadvantage compared to grocery chains.

The groups say in papers filed with the court that not only will it unduly harm minority businesses, but impact "freedom of choice in low-income communities."

At the same time, obesity rates are higher than average among black and Hispanics, according to the Centers for Disease Control. It's something that the NAACP and the Hispanic Federation acknowledges, but they suggest more physical education in city schools, instead.

Attorneys for the city will argue in court that since the Health Board regulates food service establishments, legal precedents allow it to influence what food restaurants can serve.

Unless the courts decide otherwise, the rule would to take effect on March 1 – and would limit the serving size for most sugary beverages to 16 ounces in sit-down and fast-food restaurants, cafes, delis and entertainment venues.