Board of Health approves Bloomberg’s controversial ‘soda ban’

Dr. Sixto Caro, right, a member of the New York City Board of Health, explains his objections to the soda ban while the city's Health Commissioner, Dr. Thomas Farley, center, looks on.
Miles Dixon/Metro

Say goodbye to sodas larger than 16 ounces — the Board of Health overwhelming approved Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s plan to ban sugary drinks served in large portions this morning.

With eight votes in favor and one abstained, NYC will adopt a ground-breaking sugary drink restriction that has stirred controversy since the mayor first proposed it.

Board member Sixto R. Caro, the lone abstention, worried that the proposal could hurt low income people economically. He pointed out that two bottles of 16 ounces cost more than one 32-ounce bottle.
“I’m still skeptical,” Caro, a private practitioner in Brooklyn and Manhattan, said at the meeting. “It’s not comprehensive as an intervention.”

Board members who voted in favor each cited the health of New Yorkers as their motivation for approving the measure.

“We might see a generation of children who have a life expectancy shorter than their parents,” board member Deepthiman K. Gowda told the room. “That is profound.”

Under the ban, restaurants, delis, food vendors, movie theaters and other food and drink establishments will be prohibited from selling regular soda, and other drinks, like fruit-flavored drinks, in cups larger than 16 ounces.  Officials from the new Barclays Center, set to open September 28, announced after the vote that the venue will adopt the beverage restrictions, even before they go into effect on March 13.

Bloomberg hailed his plan as a tool in the fight against obesity in the city, but it has been hard to swallow for many New Yorkers and, particularly, business owners.

“The fix was in from the beginning, and the Mayor’s handpicked board followed their orders by passing this discriminatory ban; but it has not passed with the support of New Yorkers,” Liz Berman, business owner and chairwoman of New Yorkers for Beverage Choices, said today. “It’s sad that the board wants to limit our choices.  We are smart enough to make our own decisions about what to eat and drink.”

Weight Watchers recently endorsed the the beverage restrictions, citing New York’s 60 percent obesity rate. The ban will not go into affect until March 13.

60 Seconds with … a nutritionist

In light of today’s Board of Health decision Metro talked to Lisa R.
Young, Ph.D., R.D., a nutrition professor at New York University. Young
has been featured on national television including ABC News, CBS News,
NBC News, CNN, and was in the film “Super Size Me.” She is also the
author of “The Portion Teller Plan.”

Metro: Americans take in up to 300 more calories today than they did 30 years ago. What’s up with that?

Young: 100 percent bigger portions. The problem with bigger portions is that it’s very, very subtle. If you drink a 40-, 50-, 60-oz. soda, people might notice it’s a bit bigger but they won’t notice it’s much bigger than a 16-oz. soda. And there are 800 calories in one 64-oz. Mega Jug soda from KFC. You haven’t even eaten yet.

Metro: Why have restaurants and fast-food chains started super sizing everything?

Young: The main reason is because food is cheap. Food is one of the cheapest costs of running a business. They can charge a quarter more and you, as a consumer, don’t mind paying it because you are getting a bargain. And if one company increase its size offerings, you’re not going to want to go to the other place that doesn’t have big sizes, too. It becomes a market expectation of what is reasonable.

Metro: But under this ban, won’t people just go back and buy a second soda?

Young: I don’t think so. A) They’ll have to think about it. B) They’re probably full. And C) They’ll have to pay for it.


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