When reports broke that New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg wanted to police soda size, people went wild. The proposal Bloomberg offered – that New York City should ban the sale of any soft drinks larger than 16 ounces – led to wild accusations of "nanny state behavior" and "snack police." Even reports that about 58% of adult New Yorkers are overweight or obese failed to soothe the outrage inspired by this proposal. And a new proposal is probably going to make things worse.
On Tuesday night, the New York City Board of Health suggested building on Bloomberg’s soda law to include other calorically heavy foods. The top contenders for the ban are movie theater popcorn, milkshakes, and dairy-filled coffee beverages (including those sold by Starbucks). The Board of Health believes that only offering people smaller-sized options will battle obesity and heart disease, and that soda is not the only offender.
“There are certainly milkshakes and milk-coffee beverages that have monstrous amounts of calories,” said board member Dr. Joel Forman. “I’m not so sure what the rationale is not to include those.” Businesses who don’t enforce the ban could face a $200 fine. The ban would not include alcoholic beverages, fruit juices, diet sodas, dairy-based drinks, or beverages sold in grocery stores.
Not surprisingly, many people have a problem with the government restricting snack sizes. The New York City Restaurant Association is fighting this proposal tooth and nail. And major companies that would be affected by the ban have been investigating their legal options in the matter.
“We’re going to look at all of our options to protect our business, our rights to do business and our rights not to be discriminated against,” said Steve Cahillane, a senior executive with Coca-Cola in a statement. “We won’t take anything off the table.”
This is gearing up to be a heated legal battle. Although there were protests when New York City banned artificial trans fats in 2006 and public smoking in 2011, these moves didn’t inspire the same level of outrage that this new proposal has. Unlike banning something that is inarguably unhealthy, this new proposal intends to regulate the quantities people are permitted to consume. And that sets a dangerous precedent.
“We don’t know if next it’ll be 16 fries on a plate or only one hot dog a day,” said Andrew Moesel, spokesman for the New York Restaurant Association.
A public hearing is scheduled for July 24th, after allowing a 6-week public comment period on the issue. The Board of Health is expected to make their decision on the matter sometime if September. If it passes – as many think it will – the ban will go into effect in September 2013.
Mayor Bloomberg frankly doesn’t seem to understand why people are getting so worked up over the ban. After all, people can still order their favorite foods – just in smaller portions.
“We’re not banning you from getting the stuff,” Mayor Bloomberg explained on TODAY. “It’s just if you want 32 ounces, the restaurant has to serve it in two glasses. That’s not exactly taking away your freedoms.”
[Pic via Flickr - o5com]