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Food Safety News

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NYC Soda Size Limit Unpopular But Likely To Pass

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has charted a course for fighting obesity that does not – at least at the outset – depend upon public opinion.

That’s good for him because Americans in general and New Yorkers in particular oppose Bloomberg’s plan to ban the sale of big sugary sodas in the Big Apple.

Rasmussen Reports found that 65 percent of American adults oppose a cap on soda sizes ban while 24 percent support it, with 11 percent undecided.

The national survey of 1,000 adults was conducted from May 31 to June 1. Just two weeks earlier, a Rasmussen poll of New Yorkers gave Mayor Bloomberg a 60 percent approval rating.

A Marist Poll of New Yorkers found that 53 percent of adults in the Big Apple say the soda ban is a bad idea, versus 42 percent who said it is a good one. Marist completed the survey of 500 New York City adults on June 3.

“It’s evident that people don’t want government telling them what to buy,” the American Beverage Association’s Chris Gindlesperger told Food Safety News.  ”They are smart enough to make their own choices.”

This time, however, Bloomberg’s plan to ban large sodas does not depend upon players outside of his control. Last year, Bloomberg wanted to ban underprivileged people from using their food stamps – now called SNAP vouchers – from spending them on sugary soda.

That, however, required approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which has long resisted limiting the food and beverage choices of the food stamp-dependent population.    USDA turned down Bloomberg’s request, much like state and local elected officials have resisted many soda tax proposals.

But the ban on big sugary beverages is something Bloomberg is going to be able to accomplish pretty much all on his own. Already the ground work has been laid with the Big Apple’s May 31st report titled: “Reversing the Epidemic: The New York City Obesity Task Force Plan to Prevent and Control Obesity.”

Eleven top city officials – appointed by Bloomberg – signed off on the menu of proposals to fight fat. The task force was appointed last December.

The report claims obesity is New York City’s “most serious and rapidly growing health problem,” killing 5,800 residents a year.  It says being overweight or obese is “now the norm in our city.”  Black, Latino and low-income communities are among the hardest hit.

New York has already required posting of calorie counts and meal and vending standards for city agency purchases, issued 1,000 green cart permits for sales of fresh fruits and vegetables, and issued  $2 “health bucks” for purchases at farmer’s markets.  It is also encouraging walking and biking.

To reverse obesity trends, however, the report calls for numerous other steps, including reducing what it says is an explosion in the sale of large size sugary drinks in the city.

Bloomberg’s next stop for implementing the ban will be the upcoming June meeting of the Board of Health, an 11-member body appointed by the Mayor. New York City’s Board of Health has been around since 1805 when it was formed to combat Yellow Fever.

In the ramp up for that meeting, the Health Department has been collecting statements that have been made in support of Bloomberg’s proposal and posting them on its website.

Among the leaders, public health experts and anti-obesity advocates that have expressed support for the Bloomberg ban are former President Bill Clinton, former Big Apple Mayor Ed Koch and NYU nutrition expert Marion Nestle.

“I know a lot of people think ‘this is a nanny state’ but there are serious problems,” Clinton says.  ”(Diabetes) is basically too much sugar going into the body; we can’t process it all.  So, if you get rid of these giant, full of sugar drinks, and make people have smaller portions, it will help.”

Koch says obesity is growing every year. “The Mayor’s action in restricting some of the sales of the unbelievably sugar-laden drinks is a positive measure, ” Koch says. “I pray it works.”

Marion Nestle, the widely read NYU professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health, told CBS News: “Something needs to be done, and you can’t just tell people to eat better and move more. If I’m given huge amounts of food, I am going to eat it.  Cheers for the Bloomberg administration; they’re really trying to make environmental changes.”

Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, is quoted on New York City’s website as calling the ban on large sugary drinks “the boldest effort yet to prevent obesity.”

In some sectors of the city, trends suggest that the trend being fought by the ban may already be reversing itself. The city obesity report says that according to its annual telephone survey the number of adults buying one or more sugary drinks may have peaked in 2007 at 44 percent and declined to 36 percent in 2010. Also, there has been a slight decline in the percentage of elementary children who are obese, an improvement seen mostly in white children.

Obesity rates and trends are bleak for most other segments of the population.

Among a couple dozen recommendations, the obesity report notes that the original Coca-Cola bottle size was 6.5 fluid ounces and McDonald’s original drink size was 7 fluid ounces.

“Setting a maximum size for sugary drinks offered and sold in restaurants and other food service establishments is a way we can change the default and help reacquaint New Yorkers with ‘human size’ portions to reduce excessive consumption of sugary drinks,” the report recommends.

Finally, while most New Yorkers may not like the Bloomberg ban, the Marist Poll contains evidence that they do feel fat. Half of the New York men and 57 percent of the women in the Big Apple, when asked about their age and height, said they feel like they should weigh less.

Only 40 percent of men, and 38 percent of women in the city said they felt their weight was “about right.”

© Food Safety News
  • Ted

    It was a mystery how Bloomberg could so unerringly zero in on precisely those behaviors that are sole causes of serious medical ailments.
    He banned trans fat and there hasn’t been an adverse cardiovascular event in any emergency room in NYC since! He lectured his royal subjects on salt and, lo and behold!, all hypertension has vanished from the kingdom! Finally he’s getting around to banning all that extra soda pop and by Labor Day all New Yorkers will be a trim and svelt as Twiggy!
    Oh, happy days, the mystery of Bloomberg’s prescience is solved — it’s Bill Clinton doing the science and diagnostics (quite the explanation of diabetes there, Bill) and Marion Nestle doing the relentless nagging. New Yorkers can thank them later, I suppose.

  • Julienne

    Thanks for a thoughtful and fascinating piece, Dan.

  • WEC

    Finally, New Yorkers will obtain more frequent excercise from increased trips back and forth to the soda machine to refill their 16 ounce cups…while they indulge in value sized french fries, hot pies, soft serve, and, oh yes, don’t forget the Venti Mochas with donuts on National Donut Day…Its also comforting to know that the ban will change peoples behavior so much that they won’t buy 12 packs of soda at the supermarket and indulge at home, right? Afterall, everyone is to stupid to think on their own and therfore need to be “forced to think” about what they are doing from our insightful and highly intellectual government representatives, right? I mean…Utopia is achievable right?
    This is atrocious, if the populace keeps putting these people in positions of power, Americans will lose every ounce of freedom. This is how they work…little by little and bit by bit over long periods of time.

  • Jen

    I am not an obese american, but the picture in this article makes my mouth water for a 32 oz soda ;) And I’m going to finish it off with a Little Debbie cake. Why? Cuz I can.

  • keene observer

    Dan, you’ve captured perfectly the tipsy emotional nature of this silly ordinance by reporting how New Yorkers now “feel fat”. Hell, the entire Bloomberg clown circus is a psychiatric clusterfest, skillfully playing off New Yorkers’ neuroses and obsessions. The new political pop science of Public Health is working wonderfully — a slight majority of New Yorkers have been badgered into being afraid, very afraid. The stage is now set for some delightfully psychotic progress. And how does that make you feel? Uh, well, not all warm and fuzzy. Sort of apprehensive actually. Nauseated too.

  • http://burningbird.net Shelley

    Jen, you can also go to the top of a 20 story building and jump off, too. There’s lots of things you ‘can’ do that are foolish in the extreme–I wouldn’t brag about it, if I were you.
    And notice how the companies that make obscene profits from the deteriorating health of the populace are always the first ones screaming out “nanny” or “freedom”. They don’t care about the freedom of the consumer, they only care about making unchecked profits. So much so that they hire corporate fronts like the Center for Consumer Freedom to spread misinformation to further their cause.
    Bloomberg made the only change he could make, limited by both state and federal government (under pressure by the same companies who do everything in their power to make this the fattest country on earth). What’s funny is, in a year or two, everyone in New York will have adapted to this change and wonder why they fussed so much when it came about.
    Good for Bloomberg.

  • Jen

    Yes, Shelley, foolish it would be.. but the fact that I CAN do it is my point. As someone said earlier, you cannot legislate people into good health. They have to do it for themselves… and banning us from eating/drinking various things is just another attempt to control the public to reduce costs of obesity in america. While I agree it is a problem, making unhealthy choices illegal is NOT the way to go about it. People have the right to be fat and miserable if they want to!!

  • http://burningbird.net Shelley

    Jen, no one is stopping you from going to the store and buying the biggest bottle of pop they have and guzzling it down in one sitting. No one is stopping you from buying half a dozen cups of pop and guzzling them in one setting.
    Bloomberg is proposing a new regulation on _business_ not people. No matter how much the beverage industry tries to spin it otherwise, this has nothing to do with limiting your right to be stupid.

  • Ted

    Obviously there is no curb on anyone’s “right to be stupid”. Shelly demonstrates that all over this blog. Must be some kind of extreme test case triggered on a recurring schedule to check and recheck that her inherent right to utter blathering mindnumbing stupidity has not been secretly rescinded in the last 20 minutes. Why are these paid activist shills so insulting when people see through their BS? Why must they call people stupid — is that among the agenda talking points in the activist handbook? Sort of a reverse Carnegie approach to winning friends and influencing people? Or are activist shills seeking nothing but an authoritarian solution that will bludgeon us into submission? Hubris. Ego and hubris.

  • http://burningbird.net Shelley

    Paid shill, Ted? Are your talking about yourself? Well, yes, I think we can safely assume you’re most likely paid by Rick Berman and crew, on behalf of the soda industry.
    Or are you talking about me? If so, who is paying me, Ted?
    Bloomberg? The orange juice industry?
    Mother Nature?

  • Crystal

    Whoever is paying Shelly to flame this blog should demand their money back.

  • Tony

    All I see is more refills and multiple drink purchases happening here. Thus the reason there is no outcry. All that this does is change the size of cup you can use… The people who still want to drink 60 oz. of soda when they eat their 1200 calorie burger will still do that; they’ll just have to burn 15 extra calories in the process. While we’re at it, why don’t we just close all fast food restaurants, force people to only eat Brussels sprouts and spinach, and to drink only milk and all natural juices. It’s obvious people can’t make their own choices and the government needs to step in and tell them what to do. The issue isn’t whether or not this is a good idea, it just sets an AWFUL precedent for future actions.