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National Restaurant Association - New York City mayor proposes ban on large sugar-sweetened drinks in restaurants

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New York City mayor proposes ban on large sugar-sweetened drinks in restaurants

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg May 30 outlined an aggressive plan to prohibit the sale by New York City foodservice establishments of any cup or bottle of sweetened drink larger than 16 fluid ounces. The measure, he said, was aimed at stemming rising obesity rates in the city.

Joined by New York City Health Commissioner Tom Farley, Bloomberg laid out a proposal to ban large sugar-sweetened drinks in operations defined as "food service establishments" regulated by the health department.

The National Restaurant Association strongly opposes the proposal.

The proposed regulation would cover restaurants, delis, movie theater food operations, ballpark concessions and sidewalk carts. According to preliminary reports, beverages sold in grocery or convenience stores would not be covered. Businesses would face a $200 fine for noncompliance after a three-month phase-in period.

The large-drink ban would exempt drinks with fewer than 25 calories per 8-ounce serving. It would not apply to diet sodas, certain fruit juices, dairy-based drinks like milkshakes, or alcoholic beverages. The measure would limit cup sizes for customer use at self-serve fountains to 16 ounces or less.

The measure must now be presented to and approved by the Board of Health, which Commissioner Farley chairs. A mayoral spokesperson said the proposal is expected to be presented to the Board of Health at its June 12 meeting, with a vote expected within three months after that. As part of its deliberations, the board will hold public hearings. If approved, the ban could go into effect as early as March 2013.

 

The National Restaurant Association will be working with allies in opposition to the measure.

Restaurateurs have been working for years to provide a wide variety of healthful food and beverage options to guests. "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 Scott DeFife, the NRA's executive vice president for policy and government affairs. "CDC research, which is consistent with industry and academic studies, 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.

"New York restaurants provide more than 718,000 jobs, and intrusive regulations such as this threaten those jobs. 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."

DeFife notes that New York City has consistently singled out restaurants for excessive regulation in recent years, saddling the industry with bureaucratic mandates and a controversial letter-grade health inspection system that even some City Council members have called unfair and inconsistent.

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