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National Restaurant Association - NRA testifies against NYC beverage ban

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NRA testifies against NYC beverage ban

The National Restaurant Association's director of nutrition told the New York City Health Department that Mayor Michael Bloomberg's plan to ban sugar-sweetened beverages above 16 ounces at foodservice establishments is "biased and without any scientific substantiation to support it."

Dr. Joy Dubost, PhD, RD, addressed the proposed ban at the health department's July 24 public hearing, saying, "There is no scientific evidence to demonstrate that restricting the size of beverage containers for sugary drinks or setting a calorie limit of greater than 50 calories per 16 ounces in restaurants will have any impact on obesity."

Dubost further stressed that according to data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control, most people purchase their sodas and other sugary beverages at supermarkets and convenience stores.

"Obesity is a complex problem," she said. "It is not feasible to blame one product or ingredient as the reason."

She added that the restaurant industry is a strong proponent of measures that combat obesity and that numerous restaurateurs have voluntarily stepped forward to help fight the problem.

"Instead of demonizing sugar-sweetened beverages in restaurants and foodservice establishments in an attempt to reverse the obesity epidemic, we collectively must focus on policies and practices where there is evidence to indicate there will be a consumer behavioral change that leads to positive health outcomes," she said.

In addition to Dubost's remarks, New York City Councilman Dan Halloran also testified against the proposal. Calling the hearing "a Kangaroo court," he argued that the city has "weighty problems and I am ashamed to have to be here to discuss this.

"And, now," he said, "we are seeking to cut into the ever-struggling mom-and-pop businesses. It is absolutely ridiculous."

A former restaurateur in Queens, N.Y., Halloran said the "ban will force business owners to cut employees or close and go home."

City Councilman G. Oliver Koppell told the group the proposed ban is "arbitrary and capricious and an infringement on the rights of New Yorkers' personal freedoms. It leads us to ask what will be next? There is no doubt that obesity is a serious issue in New York, but it should not be left up to the government to decide how much of a beverage an individual should be allowed to consume."

Brooklyn borough president Marty Markowitz also opposed the mayor's proposal.
"I do not support this misguided ban on sugary beverages," he said. "It is a punitive policy that forces what and how much we should drink."

Instead, he said the health department should launch a citywide campaign to develop an exercise program for youth and low-income famiies.

"We cannot combat obesity with a ban of large soda, but we can with physical activity and exercise."

The health department is expected to vote Sept. 13 on whether or not to enact the ban.

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