New York City official defends “supersize” drink ban
WASHINGTON, (Reuters) – New York City’s top health official yesterday shot back at critics who have blasted the city’s plan to limit the sale of oversized sugary drinks such as soda, calling beverage industry opposition ridiculous.
The proposed ban, which caps most sugar-sweetened beverages at 16 ounces and carries a $200 fine for vendors that do not comply, met immediate backlash from beverage companies and others who argue it is government overreach, but was lauded by public health experts.
“It’s not saying ‘no’ to people. It’s saying, ‘Are you sure? Do you really want that?’“ Thomas Farley, New York City’s health commissioner, said. “It’s sending people a message while giving people the freedom to drink as much as they want.”
Speaking at an anti-soda conference in Washington, Farley said that drink makers are following the same play-book as tobacco companies that push back against government action aimed at protecting consumers from harmful products.
Coca-Cola Co and McDonald’s Corp along with beverage industry groups have said consumers should be able to make their own drink choices and that sodas are not to blame for the nation’s soaring obesity rates.
The industry has launched a wave of ads attacking New York City’s plan, which New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced last week.
Sugary drink consumption may just be a part of the U.S. obesity epidemic, but the products are the largest single source of sugar in the diet and have a major impact on health, Farley said. Reducing obesity by just 10 percent in New York City would save about 500 lives a year, he added.
“It’s ridiculous to say we shouldn’t try something that’s only going to solve a portion of the problem,” he said at the event, which was sponsored by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a group that has long advocated against junk food.