Judge blocks New York soda ban

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 13th March 2013

A New York judge has blocked the City Council’s ban on large servings of sweet soft drinks, mere hours before the restrictions were due to come into effect.

Australian Food News reported in September 2012 that New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s policy against soft drinks had gained support from weight loss groups.

In September 2012, the New York Board of Health had approved a restriction on soft drinks, which would ban the sale of the sugary drinks in containers larger than 16 ounces (470 mL) in fast-food outlets, other restaurants, mobile food carts, delis, movie theatres, stadiums and arenas. Mayor Bloomberg said the measures were part of a strategy to tackle obesity.

But the industry associations that filed the lawsuit argued against these law measures, saying that the link between obesity and sugary drinks was not as clear as Mayor Bloomberg asserted, and that the measures would fail to “seriously effect the alleged health consequences” of drinking large amounts of sugary drinks.

They also argued that other beverages contain more calories than soft drinks, and that there was nothing in the proposed measures to stop consumers from buying multiple drinks from different venues.

Supreme Court Justice Milton Tingling agreed that the Board of Health did not have the authority to “limit or ban a legal item under the guise of ‘controlling chronic disease’” and that the proposed ban was “arbitrary and capricious” because it applied only to some food establishments, and excludes, “on suspect grounds”, other beverages that “have significantly higher concentrations of sugar sweeteners and/or calories”.

At a press conference shortly after the ruling, Mayor Bloomberg said the City would appeal the decision. “Being the first to do something is never easy. When we began this process we knew we would face law suits. Anytime you adopt a ground breaking policy, special interests will sue. That’s America,” he said.

“But we strongly believe that in the end the courts will recognise the Board of Health’s authority to regulate the sale of beverages that have virtually no nutritional value and which, consumed in large quantities, are leading to disease and death for thousands of people every year,” said Mayor Bloomberg.

According to figures from the New York City Department of Health, nearly 60 per cent of the City’s adult residents are overweight or obese, nearly 40 per cent of schoolchildren up to grade 8 are overweight or obese, and that one in eight New Yorkers has diabetes.

The legal action, which commenced on 12 October 2012, was brought against the New York City Department of Health by various industry associations, including The New York Korean-American Grocers’ Association, the Soft Drink and Brewery Workers’ Union, the National Restaurant Association, the American Beverage Association and the National Association of Theatre Owners of New York State.

Meanwhile, in Australia, sugary drinks have been under the spotlight too. Australian Food News reported in January that various health bodies in Australia had launched a television campaign titled ‘Rethink Sugary Drinks’.