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National Restaurant Association - Judge strikes down New York City beverage ban

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Judge strikes down New York City beverage ban

A judge in New York City ruled Monday that a ban on sugar sweetened beverages served in containers larger than 16 ounces is invalid and cannot be enforced.

The ruling by State Supreme Court Justice Milton Tingling in Manhattan came down just one day before the ban was supposed to take effect. Tingling said he found the ban to be arbitrary and capricious.

“It is arbitrary and capricious because it applies to some, but not all food establishments in the city,” Tingling wrote in his decision. “It excludes other beverages that have significantly higher concentrations of sugar sweeteners and/or calories on suspect grounds, and the loopholes inherent in the rule including but not limited to no limitations on refills defeat and/or serve to gut the purpose of the rule.”

The National Restaurant Association was a lead plaintiff along with the American Beverage Association in filing the lawsuit that challenged the ban. At the time of the filing, the NRA argued that the ban was arbitrary and subjected restaurateurs to a standard many of its competitors, including groceries and c-stores, didn’t have to meet.

The NRA said the judge's decision to strike down the ban was a huge win.

“This is a great victory, particularly for thousands of restaurant operators and industry suppliers serving New York City who would have experienced financial hardships had the ban been enacted,” said Dawn Sweeney, the NRA’s president and CEO. “We are extremely pleased that the judge recognized that the Board of Health exceeded its authority when it initially passed the ban.

“We look forward to working with public health officials to engage in a constructive dialogue that will have a positive and sustained impact on the people of New York City,” she added.

Had the ban been enacted, it would have prohibited restaurants, delis, stadiums and arenas, concession stands and food carts from selling sugar-sweetened beverages in containers above 16 ounces. Banned beverages would have included soda, sweetened iced tea, some smoothies and coffee drinks and lemonade.

The New York City Department of Health & Mental Hygiene enacted the regulation late last year, saying it would help curb the obesity crisis affecting New York City.

The city said it plans to appeal the judge’s decision.

"We plan to appeal the decision as soon as possible, and we are confident the board of health’s decision will ultimately be upheld,” said Michael A. Cardozo, corporation counsel for the NYC Law Department. “This measure is part of the City’s multipronged effort to combat the growing obesity epidemic, which takes the lives of more than 5,000 New Yorkers every year, and we believe the Board of Health has the legal authority – and responsibility – to tackle its leading causes.”

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