Soda ban lawsuit revives controversy

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

The American Beverage Association and other co-plaintiffs presented opening arguments today in a lawsuit alleging that the Board of Health “overstepped its authority by trying to issue new policy” with the soda ban.

The soda ban is a new regulation prohibiting the sale of sodas larger than 16 ounces in arenas, restaurants, and movie theaters. It does not apply to businesses like 7-11, where the majority of sales comes from packaged food as opposed to prepared food.

Those businesses are affected by retail regulations, not health department regulations, according to J. Justin Wilson, a senior research analyst at the Center for Consumer Freedom.

The ban is set to take effect in March.

The ban has been largely credited to Mayor Michael Bloomberg, as one of his health policies directed at combating obesity.

Amicus briefs were filed for the ABA case by the NAACP New York State Conference and the Hispanic Federation, among others, putting forth race-based complaints, asserting that the ban will arbitrarily affect minorities and minority business owners in particular.

NY NAACP President Hazel Dukes called the ban “neither prudent nor helpful in the overall fight against obesity.”

“A real solution would address issues like access to healthier foods, particularly in the food deserts that exist in low-income neighborhoods,” Dukes said.

She also pointed out that the ban “impacts corner bodegas but not grocery stores,” thereby risking “disproportionately impacting the people who can least afford it: those who frequent corner markets and not gourmet stores.”

The ABA said the regulations should have gone through the elected City Council, rather than the mayor-appointed Board of Health.

Follow Danielle Tcholakian on Twitter @danielleiat


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