While health lobby groups praised yesterday’s decision by NYC’s Board of Health to cap serving sizes of sugary drinks sold in foodservice outlets, the beverage industry-backed group New Yorkers for Beverage Choices said it is exploring whether there are grounds for a legal challenge.
“This is not the end,” said spokesman Eliot Hoff. “We are exploring legal options and all other avenues available to us.”
However, he would not explain what legal avenues might be open to opponents of the ban, which will come into force in March 2013 and prohibits sales of sugary beverages in containers larger than 16oz by any outlet that receives letter grades for food service, including movie theaters, fast food chains, mobile food carts and delis.
It will not apply to grocery stores.
The ban - which will exclude most dairy-based drinks, diet sodas, alcoholic drinks and 100% juices - targets beverages "sweetened with sugar or another caloric sweetener that contain more than 25 calories per 8 fluid ounces and less than 51% milk or milk substitute by volume as an ingredient”.
McDonald’s: We trust consumes to make the choices that are best for them
While the soft drinks industry has tried to turn the debate into one about curtailing Americans’ freedom of choice, they have also attacked the proposal as “arbitrary” as drinks banned in a restaurant can be served in a grocery store next door.
“We are smart enough to make our own decisions about what to eat and drink”, said group chair Liz Berman, who claimed most New Yorkers did not support the ban.
McDonald’s USA said it was “disappointed this proposal passed”, arguing that providing a range of choices and arming consumers with information to make their own decisions was a better approach.
A spokeswoman added: “We provide our customers nutritional information through multiple means and trust them to make the choices that are best for them."
CSPI: Few consumers will miss super-size soda despite ‘professionally manufactured outrage’ from beverage giants
However, Center for Science in the Public Interest executive director Michael Jacobson predicted that few consumers “are really going to miss quart-sized soda servings despite the professionally manufactured outrage from soda-industry front groups”.
Meanwhile, the scale of the public health crisis facing the healthcare system is such that bold action is needed from city and state health departments to deal with it, he claimed.
“To make a dent in expensive and debilitating conditions such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and other health problems, it makes perfect sense to act to discourage and reduce soda consumption.”
He added: “What was once a rare treat is now basically the default drink, especially for youths…
“I hope that New York's action emboldens other health departments and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to limit serving sizes and use other measures to reduce consumption."
The National Consumers League also applauded the New York City Board of Health and described the move as "a courageous step”.
Executive director Sally Greenberg added: "In a nation where two-thirds of American adults and one-third American children are either overweight or obese, we encourage other leaders to adopt similar creative strategies to combat this growing health epidemic.”
What role do sugary drinks play in rising obesity levels?
According to a guide produced by the CDC in 2010, per capita consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) excluding sweetened milks was 50kcal/day among US adults in 1965 compared with 203kcal/day in 2010.
It added: “Several mechanisms have been proposed to explain the association between SSB consumption and obesity…
“First, individuals may fail to compensate for the added calories consumed as liquid and may result in excess intakes of sugar and calories.
“Second, the rapid drop in blood sugar that follows the insulin response to consumption of foods high in sugar increases hunger and may thereby increase food consumption.
“The third possible mechanism is the inability of fructose to stimulate hormones that help regulate satiety.
“Fourth, the inborn human desire for the sweet taste can override normal satiety signals.”
However, speaking to FoodNavigator-USA in May, the New York City Beverage Association said that “by nearly every measure, the contribution of calories from beverages to the diet is declining, yet obesity is still rising”.
It added: “The NYC health department continues to misplace its focus on combating obesity by irrationally focusing on one set of products that are not driving the problem.”
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