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New York City Soda Ban Passes; Soda Industry Plans to Fight [UPDATED]

UPDATE: On Friday, October 12, the beverage industry and 11 other organizations filed a lawsuit against New York City challenging the recent soda ban, according to an article in The Washington Post. The lawsuit deals less with the ban itself and more with whether or not the New York City Board of Health had the right to pass the regulation in the first place.

A portion of the lawsuit reads: “The Board of Health’s decision nonetheless to ban certain sizes of sweetened beverages in certain outlets, imposed by executive fiat, usurps the role of the City Council, violating core principles of democratic government, and ignoring the rights of the people of New York City to make their own choices.”

The NYC Board of Health reportedly contends that it does, in fact, have the authority to create such a regulation that ‘promotes healthier living,’ and is poised to fight the lawsuit much like it battled chain restaurants in court over the issue of calorie labeling on menus. (10/15/12)

It seems the nation has been on high alert as the New York City soda ban vote inched nearer. As of Thursday morning, New Yorkers and their mayor Michael Bloomberg can take a deep sigh of relief as the wait is now over. The proposed amendment to ban the sale of sugary beverages exceeding 16 ounces has been approved by the city’s Board of Health.

The measure will take effect in six months unless overturned by a judge, which the soda industry has vowed to pursue. Those living in New York can expect to see their favorite sugary beverages available only in a 16 ounce size or smaller at businesses regulated by the city.

Bloomberg takes the health of his citizens seriously and has passed similar measures before, one being the initiative to place calorie counts on restaurant menus and another that limited the amount of trans fats food sold in the city could contain. Despite any resistance to Bloomberg’s past or current legislation positive changes have been made, so it’s no surprise that his most recent initiative was approved.

People are already turning to Twitter in response to the news.

 

 

The trans fats ban of 2006 limited the amount per serving to less than 0.5 grams. Studies have since shown that the trans fat content of meals was reduced from 2.91 grams in 2007 to 0.51 grams in 2009. While a 2.4 gram reduction doesn’t sound like much of difference, even small progress is progress in the eyes of Bloomberg and his team.

Though the initiative to place calorie counts on menus wasn’t as successful- a reported 15 percent of diners now choose healthier options and consume 100 fewer calories on average per meal – the mayor’s commitment to building a healthier city seems to be unwavering.

The soda ban was carried out by the official New York City Obesity Task Force, which seeks to “prevent and control obesity” in the city. While the law bans restaurants from selling beverages larger than 16 ounces, there are a few exceptions some people aren’t aware of.

For one, only businesses regulated by the city will be affected by the ban. Those outside of regulation – such as 7-11 convenient stores – will still be able to sell whatever size beverages they want. So the catch is, if you can’t get your 54 ounce Coke at McDonald’s, you can simply walk over to a convenient store and fill up there. This is an apparent flaw that led many to believe the ban was pointless.

In addition, if the beverage contains more than 50 percent milk or if it is not sweetened by the establishment and the customer is allowed to add the sugar him or herself – such as an unflavored latte from Starbucks – the restriction does not apply. More clarification is provided in this New York Times video by filmmaker Casey Neistat.

Bloomberg contends that people who point out the apparent “oversights” in the ban are missing the point altogether. What he and the city ultimately hope to achieve is for people to become more aware of the amount of sugar they’re consuming when they buy extremely large beverages.

So why does the city of New York think this ban is not only a good idea but a necessary one? For starters, our nation is in the midst of an obesity epidemic that clearly needs to be addressed and every little bit helps. Second, a large soda at McDonald’s contains 104 grams of sugar – an amount equal to nearly four Snickers bars. I think we can all agree no one really needs that.

And perhaps most convincing is the fact that health experts from around the nation are coming behind the ban, stating it as a valiant and crucial move on behalf of the mayor. Professor of epidemiology and nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health, Walter Willett, is in great support of the ban and was quoted by TIME saying, “Soda in large amounts is metabolically toxic…It’s obvious that this [ban] is the right thing to do.”

Diets in Review reached out to some of the health industry’s most prominent experts for their opinion on the vote.  Though they each had their own opinion, they seem to be in overwhelming support.

Dr. Pierre Dukan, author of The Dukan Diet, said, “I applaud the decision of the City of New York and I welcome the determination of Mayor Bloomberg in his fight against the scourge of obesity and the over-consumption of sugar, which is at the crux of this cause. For, in life, we must not undergo taking in foods that are unhealthy for us and that make us gain weight.  This ban is a first step. I now encourage our political leaders to go further.”

Dr. Melina Jampolis, author of The Calendar Diet, was in agreeance with Dukan, saying“While I realize that this ban may be viewed as a bit of a governmental over-reach, I truly believe that it was proposed with the best interest of the health of Americans, and if there is even a small chance that at-risk populations will benefit in the battle against the complex challenge of obesity, I support the ban.”

Health journalist and ABC News contributor Liz Neporent, has her reservations regarding the ban. ”I think it is a noble idea, we could argue over whether this is nanny state politics but no one would argue the intentions are good,” she said. “My arguments against it is that the science supporting it is extremely weak to non-existent. I wish this was more science-based decision and less ‘let’s-do-something.’ Also the law won’t be applied in an even handed way. Only establishments such as restaurants and bars that receive ratings from the city will be forced to comply while a 7-11 next door can still sell a Big Gulp with 120-plus grams of sugar and 500-plus calories with no restrictions. So on balance, and as someone who attended the hearings, I’d feel better if this was a more evidence-based decision.”

More reactions regarding the vote continue to stream in from Twitter.

 

We can expect the soda industry won’t be going down without a fight on this issue. The New York Times reported this week that the group New Yorkers for Beverage Choices has already spent more than $1 million on a public relations campaign in opposition of the ban, and we can only anticipate more money likely being spent since the ban has now passed.

Now that the decision has been made, we can only hope this initiative is as successful as Bloomberg’s past attempts to improve his city’s health.

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September 13th, 2012

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