Big Apple Beverage Ban Enters Its 'Endgame'

As NYC fights to limit sugary drinks, LA mulls safety warnings

Published in CSP Daily News

By  Steve Holtz, Online News Director & Beverage Editor

LOS ANGELES & NEW YORK -- The health police made multiple strikes on beverages this week in the country’s two largest cities.

East Coast Ban

In New York, when former Mayor Michael Bloomberg left his position in December, it seemed to put to rest an effort to ban the sale of sugary beverages larger than 16 ounces in the city. Not so.

This week, NYC revived the battle, entering what the New York Times called “its endgame.”

"There's a serious crisis as to obesity in New York City, and there is a rich vast and growing body of literature that shows that overconsumption of sugary drinks plays a unique role," Richard Dearing, an attorney for the city, told the Court of Appeals in Albany on Wednesday.

The city is seeking to revive the rule proposed by Bloomberg after it was struck down by a lower court following lawsuits from American Beverage Association and other trade associations.

The State Court of Appeals hearing is the city's final recourse.

But health advocates and legal experts say there’s more at stake in this legal battle that the fate of the Big Gulp. The larger issue is constitutional, they say. How far can local governments can go to protect the health of their citizens?

West Coast Labeling

Meanwhile on the Left Coast, the Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Safety Warning Act is now in the hands of the California State Assembly, according to a report in Food Safety News.

Last week, the state Senate passed the bill that would require that any sweetened non-alcoholic beverage (carbonated or non-carbonated) that contains 75 calories or more per 12 fluid ounces be labeled with the words, "Drinking beverages with added sugar(s) contributes to obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay.”

The label would not apply to 100% fruit or vegetable juices, dietary aids, infant formulas or "any beverage whose principal ingredient by weight is milk."

The bill was introduced in February.

"We got the bill through the Senate. … We're thrilled as can be," California Center for Public Health Advocacy executive director Harold Goldstein told attendees Wednesday at the Center for Science in the Public Interest's Soda Summit in Washington, D.C., according to the report.

"It provides an authoritative statement at the same time as it educates consumers," he said. "The campaign itself gets the message out."

Goldstein said the idea for the warning label came after several attempts to pass bills to tax soda at the state and local level. The advocates decided that, before you can tax something, you have to be able to answer the question, "Why are you picking on soda and leaving everything else alone?"

So they reviewed the timeline for regulating tobacco. Smoking started to decrease when the U.S. Surgeon General's report on smoking came out in the mid-1960s and warning labels were added to tobacco products, Goldstein said. Taxes on tobacco came after that.

Circling back to sugar-sweetened beverages, he said, "I think we haven't quite made the groundwork yet to make [taxes] happen."

By Steve Holtz, Online News Director & Beverage Editor
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