Iowa Public Television


New York Sugary Drink Ban Overturned

posted on March 15, 2013

Millions of Americans will celebrate Easter in a couple of weeks with spiritual -- and culinary – traditions. And for many that means a big ham dinner, decorative eggs, and of course, Peeps.

Manufactured by the family-owned Just Born company of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, the famous candy celebrates its 60th anniversary this year.

Just Born will produce more than 1 billion Peeps this Easter – an all-time high - and it sees the 60th anniversary as an opportunity to connect with its human Peeps to extol the virtues of the spongy confection made of sugar, corn syrup and gelatin.

Increasingly though, sugary treats are blamed, at least in part, for America’s obesity epidemic, and that’s leading to changes in public policy. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has even gone so far as to try to ban sales of larger sizes of sugary drinks. Late last week though, that effort suffered a setback.

On the eve of its implementation, a New York Supreme Court Judge overturned New York City’s ban on sales of sugary drinks over 16 ounces.

The regulation was unveiled nearly a year ago by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and approved by the New York City Board of Health last September.  The legislation sought to curb skyrocketing obesity rates in the urban metropolis, which have risen from 18 to 24 percent over the past decade.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg: I – New York: “… with so many people contracting diabetes and heart disease and so many children who are overweight and obese…with so many poor neighborhoods suffering the worst of this epidemic, it is reasonable and responsible to draw a line, and it would be irresponsible not to try to do everything to save lives.”

The ban would have outlawed soda, sweetened teas, fruit smoothies, flavored coffees and energy drinks sold in large portions.  

Mayor Michael Bloomberg: I – New York: “Just think about that!”

Restaurants, bars, movie theaters, sports arenas and even bowling alleys were subject to the ban.  But critics claim the push was destined to fail because the policy exempted convenience and grocery stores, and did not prohibit refills.

Calling Bloomberg’s initiative “arbitrary and capricious,” Judge Milton Tingling claimed the law would eviscerate New York’s separation of powers doctrine, as the Board of Health was treading on city council territory.

While the beverage industry supported the New York judge’s decision, some studies indicate that America’s love-affair with soda is on the rocks.

According to Beverage Digest, soda soared as the top drink in the U.S. for 20 years, with consumption peaking in 1998 at 54 gallons per capita.  The average today is 44 gallons, and water has become the top beverage of choice.  Due, in part, to reports that sugary soda leads to obesity, h2o has become a top alternative to sweet concoctions for consumers.

But the carbonated soft-drink industry is still wildly profitable.  Berkshire Hathaway’s stake in Coca-Cola, for example, has earned more than 750 percent over the past 25 years.

The Mayor’s Office has vowed to appeal the decision.  But reaction to the proposed ban isn’t limited to the Big Apple.

In Mississippi, which the CDC has identified as the most obese state in America, lawmakers have put forth a bill that would prevent any county from addressing the obesity epidemic by regulation of the food and beverage industries.

Tags: abritrary and capricious Anti-Bloomberg Law ban Big Apple Judge Milton Tingling Mayor Michael Bloomberg Mississippi New York Board of Health New York City obesity over 16 ounces Soda sugar