Beverage Industry Slams Bloomberg Proposal to Ban Large Sugary Drinks

New York Mayor Suggests Law Could Be in Place by March

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The beverage industry is up in arms about New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's proposed ban on the sale of large sugary drinks.

The sweeping ban, as described by The New York Times, would prohibit the sale of large sodas and other sugary drinks, such as energy drinks and some iced teas, at restaurants, movie theaters, sports arenas and street carts. 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.

Cups or bottles larger than 16 fluid ounces -- the average soda bottle is 20 ounces -- would be affected. Restaurants would be required to serve fountain cups that are 16 ounces or less, limiting many to small and child sizes. A medium fountain cup at McDonald's is 21 ounces, while a large is 32 ounces, according to its website.

If the ban is instituted, it would be Mr. Bloomberg's most aggressive move yet to curb rising obesity rates and improve New Yorkers' health. The effort would be a first, and could be put in place as soon as next March, if it's approved by the city's Board of Health. The New York Times says it's likely to be approved, given the board's members have all been appointed by Mr. Thomas Farley, the New York City Health Commissioner and chairman of the board, has already voiced his approval of the plan.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest also expressed its support, calling the proposal "pioneering." The group says it hopes other city and state public-health officials adopt similar programs.

The beverage industry, however, is pushing back, pointing out that it has already placed calorie counts on the front of bottles and cans in New York, while restaurants in the city also post the calorie content of beverages.

"The people of New York City are much smarter than the New York City Health Department believes," Coca-Cola said in a statement. "We are transparent with our consumers. They can see exactly how many calories are in every beverage we serve.

"New Yorkers expect and deserve better than this," the Coca-Cola statement continues. "They can make their own choices about the beverages they purchase. We hope New Yorkers loudly voice their disapproval about this arbitrary mandate."

The New York City Beverage Association called the proposal "zealous," saying it distracts from the work that needs to be done to curb obesity.

"There they go again. The New York City Health Department's unhealthy obsession with attacking soft drinks is again pushing them over the top," said Stefan Friedman, spokesman for the New York City Beverage Association, in a statement. "The city is not going to address the obesity issue by attacking soda because soda is not driving the obesity rates. In fact, as obesity continues to rise, CDC data shows that calories from sugar-sweetened beverages are a small and declining part of the American diet."

Many of the measures adopted in New York have become models for other cities, such as restrictions on smoking and trans fats and the requirement that restaurants post calorie counts next to prices. The city has also been extremely aggressive in running graphic advertisements that criticize smoking and the consumption of sugary beverages. Mr. Bloomberg also supported a state tax on sodas and other sugary drinks, though that effort failed.

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