Restaurant Association Condemns Bloomberg's Proposed Sugary-Drink Ban

Points Out Most Soda Sold in Stores, not Restaurants

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The beverage industry has already slammed New York City's proposed ban on large sugary drinks, and the fast-food industry is doing the same.

Credit: Tony Pettinato
The ban, which would prohibit the sale of large sodas and other sugary drinks more than 16 ounces in size at restaurants, movie theaters, sports arenas and street carts, is drawing ire from the restaurant industry. The industry has long favored personal and parental responsibility when it comes to balanced eating and childhood obesity. And drinks are also highly profitable items for restaurants, so it's no surprise that the industry opposed Mayor Bloomberg's proposed ban, which was first reported by The New York Times.

The National Restaurant Association's Scott DeFife, exec VP of Policy and Government Affairs, condemned the proposal, saying: "Public health officials in New York should put all of their energies into public education about a balanced lifestyle with a proper mix of diet and exercise rather than attempting to regulate consumption of a completely legal product enjoyed universally."

Mr. DeFife also referenced research from the Center for Disease Control, "which is consistent with industry and academic studies, [and] shows that the vast majority of beverage calories consumed by the average American are not from sugary drinks obtained from restaurants, yet New York City's eateries are being unfairly singled out to ration portion size of single beverage servings." That research Mr. DeFife used in the statement is from the CDC's research on the consumption of sugary beverages in the U.S. from 2005-2008, which said, among other things, that : "Most of the sugar drinks consumed away from home are obtained from stores and not restaurants or schools."

"There is no silver bullet in America's fight against obesity, and hyper-regulation such as this misplaces responsibility and creates a false sense of accomplishment," said Mr. DeFife.

Restaurants in New York and many other cities already post calorie counts on menus, and a federal law that would require chains with more than 20 locations to put calorie counts on menu board was passed as part of the 2010 health-care overhaul. The FDA is expected to issue rules on the matter later this year. The NRA has shown support of menu labeling.

The NRA also said that a ban on large sugary drinks could affect restaurant employment. "New York restaurants provide more than 718,000 jobs, and intrusive regulations such as this threaten those jobs." It was not clear how a ban would affect jobs.

The New York City chapter of the New York State Restaurant Association had similar views on the matter. "We appreciate the mayor's concern for public health, but the current proposal goes much too far. No one understands private enterprise and business better than the mayor. People want choices. Restaurants are serving the public what it wants and we all hope that will continue," said Andrew Moesel, spokesman for the chapter. "If we want New York City to remain the restaurant capital of the world, we must stop placing these burdensome restrictions on what can and can't be served here."

McDonald's, the largest restaurant in the world by sales, said in a statement to Ad Age : "Public health issues cannot be effectively addressed through a narrowly-focused and misguided ban." The statement went on to say that such a topic requires a more "collaborative and comprehensive" approach. "McDonald's takes the well-being of our customers very seriously, and we continue to work, along with our supplier partners, to be part of the solution."

The ban would not affect beverages sold in grocery or convenience stores. And it would not apply to drinks with fewer than 25 calories per 8-ounce serving, such as diet sodas and unsweetened iced teas. It would also not affect juices or dairy drinks such as milkshakes, which chains like Wendy's and McDonald's serve. McDonald's was known for its super-size fries and drinks, but the chain phased them out in the mid-2000s after criticism.

"We offer our customers a range of beverage options to address their individual nutritional needs and taste preferences from a selection of regular to no-calorie soft drinks and water, to low-fat milk, fat-free chocolate milk, real-fruit smoothies and juices," said McDonald's. "We trust our customers to make the choices that are best for them."

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