NYC approves soda ban; restaurant association responds

New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg's proposal to ban the sale of sweetened beverages 16 oz. or larger was approved today by the NYC Board of Health.

After the news broke, Bloomberg tweeted: "NYC's new sugary drink policy is the single biggest step any gov't has taken to curb obesity. It will help save lives."

He has continued to send tweets in defense of the proposal throughout the day, including:

"People given #beverages 50% larger consume 20%-33% more. Portion size drives consumption;" and "We're taking action because #obesity is a national epidemic that is creating a public health crisis – and we can't just let that happen."

According to the New York Times, unless the measure is blocked by a judge, it should take effect in six months.

Bloomberg proposed the ban as an amendment to the New York City Health Code. Specifically, it would prohibit the sale of sugar-sweetened beverages above 16 ounces in restaurants, delis, movie theaters, stadiums, food carts and other venues throughout New York City.

The ban extends to any beverage – exclusive of milkshakes and alcoholic drinks – with more than 25 calories per 8 ounces, including some sodas, coffees, teas, smoothies and lemonades.

National Restaurant Association responds

The National Restaurant Association responded to today's approval, saying the ban unfairly targets restaurants and is a misguided tactic to impact the obesity problem.

"There is no scientific support that this beverage ban's size and caloric limit will impact obesity rates," said Joy Dubost, Ph.D., R.D., director of Nutrition and Healthy Living for the NRA. "It is also bewildering that the ban restricts restaurants from serving sweetened beverages in sizes larger than 16 ounces, but individuals can purchase any-sized beverage from a convenience or grocery store. This ban will punitively impact thousands of New York's restaurant owners – the majority of which are small businesses."

The NRA is a member of the New Yorkers for Beverage Choices coalition, which currently has more than 250,000 supporters who oppose the beverage ban. A spokesperson for New Yorkers for Beverage Choices said the group is exploring legal options to fight the restrictions.

"Apparently, even after the flood of comments and concerns raised by New Yorkers about this ban, the Board of Health chose to ignore all feedback and move forward without any significant changes to this flawed proposal," Dubost said.

Among the flaws, she adds, is the exclusion of convenience and grocery stores, where a majority of consumers purchase their sugar-sweetened beverages from, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Bottom line worries

Also, worry abounds that the ban will have a detrimental effect on New York restaurants' bottom lines, since soft drinks carry high margins. For example, in June, an Edward Jones analyst estimated that McDonald's pulls in about 5 percent of its U.S. sales from soft drinks.

Fountain drinks make up about 24 percent of the 9.3 billion cases of soda sold a year, according to Beverage Digest. The market is worth $75.7 billion.

McDonald's sent out a tweet June 1, two days after Bloomberg first pitched the idea, which said: "@MikeBloomberg We trust our customers to make the choices that are best for them."

That same day, the New York State Restaurant Association also released an extensive response.

"We appreciate the Mayor's concern for public health, but the current proposal goes much too far," said Andrew Moesel, spokesman for the NYC Chapter of New York State Restaurant Association. "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. 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."

Operational challenges

The NRA also points out that the ban will cause operational challenges for restaurant operators. Under the ban, a restaurant may not offer self-service cups above 16 ounces even if the customer intends to fill it with a sugar-free drink. The only way an operator would be able to provide such a drink to customers is through the drive-thru window where self-serve is not available.

"This proposal creates an uneven playing field from a business perspective, and produces a false sense of accomplishment in the fight against obesity," said Scott DeFife, executive vice president, Policy and Government Affairs for the NRA. "The restaurant industry is committed to a proactive role in addressing obesity. We are disappointed in the board's vote today, and will continue to push for solutions that will truly impact consumer health in a positive way."

Read more about health and nutrition initiatives.

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User Comments – Give us your opinion!
  • Drew Mack
    This is unmittigatedly absurd as a waste of time for the politicians and as an attempt to force people to behave in a certain way. The cup size is not the problem its the quantity and regularity of consumption coupled with a sedentary lifestyle, but having any government entity local, state or federal legislate what size cup you can consume your beverage of choice in, or most anything else related to personal behavior, is patently un-American, especially when its a rule as poorly concieved as this; it regulates sodas but not frappacinos, the latter having far more calories even in smaller sizes. This is a prime example of the ineffectiveness, ineptitude. and incompetence of nanny-state beauraucracies.

    - Drew Mack from
  • Robert Lucido
    Inch by inch... America "the land of the free" is becoming "the land of the controlled." Soon a 14 oz. New York Sirloin will be limited to 8 oz. Mashed potatoes will only be allowed on national holidays and ice cream will only be served at political rallies; with promises of more if the candidate is elected. I'll tell you what - once they ban the stuffing in roast turkey, I'm heading to Canada for Thanksgiving!
  • Howie Subnick
    Just what we need. A government official telling us what us what is good for us. I'm sure if we looked at the "books" related to New York City we could tell them exactly where they went wrong in many areas. Bloomberg, stick with what you know and leave the restaurants alone. You are NOT the maven of the soft drink business. Continue this and every 7-Eleven will lose hundreds of workers going back to India. Can you image what will happen at Katz's Deli, Carnagie Deli and the Stage Deli? You will be attacked by old, Jewish counter men. Does an egg cream fit within your guidelines? You can't become a soft drink MAVEN overnight. Leave well enough alone and let those paying the tab decide what they want to drink. As for me, if I have my life to live over, I'd live over a deli! God Bless Us All!
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