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Bloomberg’s super-size soda ban hearing set for tomorrow morning

By Elaine WATSON , 22-Jan-2013
Last updated the 22-Jan-2013 at 14:51 GMT

Oral arguments in a lawsuit brought against New York City's health board over Mayor Bloomberg’s super-size soda ban will be heard at 10am tomorrow morning (Jan 23), the American Beverage Association (ABA) has confirmed.

The ban - which comes into force on March 12 - prohibits sales of sugary beverages in containers larger than 16oz by any outlet that receives letter grades for food service, including movie theaters, fast food chains, mobile food carts and delis. It will not apply to grocery stores.

It will include beverages "sweetened with sugar or another caloric sweetener that contain more than 25 calories per 8floz and less than 51% milk or milk substitute by volume as an ingredient”, but excludes most dairy-based drinks, alcoholic drinks and 100% juices.

Soda industry: NYC health board is bypassing the proper legislative process for governing the City

The CSPI, which recently made a provocative video featuring soda-guzzling diabetic bears to highlight the perils of excess soda consumption, has repeatedly called for action at a state and federal level to try and curb soda consumption, and claims that each additional sugary drink consumed per day increases the likelihood of a child becoming obese by 60%

However, the ABA and other opponents* of the ban have filed a lawsuit arguing that the health board does not have the authority to implement it.

According to a 61-page filing lodged with the State Supreme Court in Manhattan last October, that authority sits with the New York City Council.

“This case is not about obesity... This case is about the Board of Health, appointed by the Mayor, bypassing the proper legislative process for governing the City”, it says.

The plaintiffs also argue that the proposal is “arbitrary and capricious” as drinks banned in a restaurant can be served in a grocery store next door.

Meanwhile, as the ban excludes most dairy-based beverages, “Diners will be permitted to sell large chocolate milkshakes (about 800 calories each), but will be fined if they sell a 20-ounce cola (only about 240 calories)”, noted the plaintiffs.

What is this ban about?

While the soft drinks industry has tried to turn the debate into one about curtailing Americans’ freedom of choice, supporters of the ban such as the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) have dismissed the industry’s opposition as “professionally manufactured outrage”.

CSPI executive director Michael Jacobson predicts that few consumers “are really going to miss quart-sized soda servings despite the professionally manufactured outrage from soda-industry front groups”.

How much energy in the American diet comes from soft drinks?

The CSPI, which has recently created a hard-hitting video called The Unhappy Truth about Soda, claims that "each additional sugary drink consumed per day increases the likelihood of a child becoming obese by about 60%", and that "drinking one or two sugary drinks per day increases your risk for type 2 diabetes by 25%".

According to an analysis of 2005-6 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) data conducted by the National Cancer Institute, soda, sports drinks, sweetened waters and energy drinks account for 5.5% of calories consumed by Americans.

*The plaintiffs include New York City businesses and workers represented by city, state and national associations, including the Teamsters Local 812, Korean-American Grocers Association of New York, National Association of Theatre Owners of New York State, National Restaurant Association, New York State Coalition of Hispanic Chambers of Commerce and the American Beverage Association.

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