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National Restaurant Association - NYC health board moves mayor's soda ban plan forward

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NYC health board moves mayor's soda ban plan forward

New York City's Board of Health has unanimously advanced Mayor Michael Bloomberg's proposal to ban sweetened drinks above 16 ounces at foodservice establishments throughout the city.

The plan, which does not need voter or city council approval, was formally submitted to the Board of Health during its June 12 public hearing. The measure, which the mayor has said is aimed at lowering the city's rising obesity rates, will now enter into a 90-day public comment period. A public hearing, where testimony will be heard, will be held July 24 and the final vote on whether to enact the ban is scheduled for Sept. 13.

If enacted, the mandate would prohibit the sale of sweetened drinks larger than 16 ounces at restaurants, delis, concessions at movie theaters and stadiums, food carts and other venues throughout the New York City area. Soda, energy drinks, some coffee beverages and sweetened iced tea would be subject to the ban, but diet soda, some fruit juices, dairy-based drinks and alcoholic beverages would not.

The National Restaurant Association, which strongly opposes the ban, said a comprehensive approach must be taken in addressing the obesity epidemic and that the restaurant industry is using myriad strategies to help reduce the trend, including adding more healthful items to menus and offering nutrition information to consumers so they can make better choices for themselves. Better education, not increased regulation, is the key to success, the Association maintained.

"This regulation is another example of New York City's consistent targeting of restaurants with bureaucratic mandates that severely interrupt business and service to customers," said Scott DeFife, the NRA's executive vice president for policy and government affairs. "The proposal is not as simplistic as the mayor would have New Yorkers believe. If the Board of Health can limit the size of beverage containers in restaurants, you can bet regulations on food portion sizes and other nutrients are next."

If passed, the ban, which according to published reports is the first of its kind in this country, could take effect by March 2013.

DeFife further asserted that, "Hyper-regulations, such as the mayor's plan, misplace responsibility, threaten small businesses and create a false sense of accomplishment. The National Restaurant Association will work to educate decision-makers on just how problematic this proposal is for New York restaurant operators."

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