A small soda at McDonalds is about to become the largest option available in New York City if a proposal to limit sugary drink portion sizes is passed by the city’s health board.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration, which has made public health a central part of its agenda, announced Thursday that it is seeking a 16 oz. cap on sugar-sweetened drinks served at delis, fast food and sit-down restaurants, movie theaters and sports venues.

This latest rule would follow past city regulations that have mandated calorie labeling on all chain restaurant menus and banned artificial trans fats from food establishments.

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According to the New York City Health Department, sugary drinks are a main contributor to the city’s obesity problem. Nearly 6 in 10 NYC residents are either overweight or obese. High sugary drink consumption is associated with weight gain, obesity and higher rates of diabetes in New York City, says a 2011 report by four district health offices.

The sugary drink limit requires approval from the New York City Board of Health, which is set to vote on it June 12.

Bloomberg touted the plan as a positive step desired by News York City residents.

“New York City is not about wringing your hands; it’s about doing something,” Bloomberg said in a Wednesday interview with the New York Times. “I think that’s what the public wants the mayor to do.”

This new limit will require a significant paring down of soda offerings at many restaurants. A 16 oz. portion is the equivalent of a “small” at McDonald’s or a “regular” cup at Burger King. Soda in this amount usually contains around 150 calories, all from sugar. Movie theater drink cups are currently 22 oz., usually holding over 300 calories.

Diet sodas would still be permitted in larger quantities since they contain little to no sugar.

The NYC proposal also applies to other sugared beverages, such as fruit drinks and flavored milk, shakes, or alcoholic beverages, which must also be limited to 16 oz. if the measure passes.

The move is being criticized by the beverage industry as overstepping control over consumer choice and as putting unfair blame on soda as such a large contributor to obesity.

“The people of New York City are much smarter than the New York City Health Department believes,” said Coca-Cola in a statement Thursday. “We are transparent with our consumers. They can see exactly how many calories are in every beverage we serve. We have prominently placed calorie counts on the front of our bottles and cans and in New York City, restaurants already post the calorie content of all their offerings and portion sizes — including soft drinks.

“New Yorkers expect and deserve better than this. They can make their own choices about the beverages they purchase. We hope New Yorkers loudly voice their disapproval about this arbitrary mandate.”

The New York City Beverage Association also weighed in against the proposal: “There they go again. The New York City Health Department’s unhealthy obsession with attacking soft drinks is again pushing them over the top,” said Stefan Friedman, spokesman  for NYBA in a statement Thursday. “The city is not going to address the obesity issue by attacking soda because soda is not driving the obesity rates.”

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), a consumer watchdog group, praised the move.

“Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s pioneering proposal to limit serving sizes of sugary drinks is the boldest effort yet to prevent obesity, which is not only painful for millions of Americans but is costing our nation upwards of $150 billion in higher health costs annually,” said CSPI’s executive director Micheal Jacobson in a Thursday press release.

“New York City’s health department deserves tremendous credit for recognizing the harm that sugary soft drinks cause in the form of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease – and for doing something about it. We hope other city and state public health officials adopt similar curbs on serving sizes and reducing Americans’ exposure to these nutritionally worthless products.”

This is not the first time soda has been targeted as a primary contributor to the American obesity epidemic. Some school districts have banned soft drinks, and certain cities have banned the drinks on government premises.

  • Ted

    Doctor Bloomberg is such an inspiration! Since his ban of trans-fats there is no more cardiovascular disease in NYC. His posters in restaurant windows have eradicated food poisoning. People are now living practically forever and that gives them more time to get fat from drinking soda pop. When the soda pop is correctly regulated New Yorkers will finally all be slim and will live almost beyond forever because there will be no diabetes in NYC…and because they will be somewhat smaller targets, thus fewer fatal gunshot wounds. It must be a perfect public health world — it seems Batman has become the mayor of Gotham City!

  • TP

    Prohibition did not work.
    How do you address this issue and still be politically correct?


    Liberalism Is A Mental Disorder! ~ When will New Yorkers wake-up to realizing that the Mayor they picked is a “screwball”?!
    He pushes gun control; the results being that ONLY criminals & police have guns in his city!
    NOW he wants to limit the amount of soda New Yorkers consume which will only result in people going back…FOR SECOND SERVINGS! (Hey Greenies, look at all the extra containers going into landfills…because of STUPIDITY IN POWER!!!)

  • Michael Bulger

    Research shows that larger portions result in larger amounts of consumption. From a business standpoint, the fast food restaurants and movie theaters feature super-sized items because they know that consumers tend to consume more when presented with larger options. People are less inclined to overeat when it entails them refilling the cups, and less people overeating means less money for beverage companies.
    It’s such a simple concept, and the Dept. of Health is bold and brilliant for taking this step. The ABA will pour money into spinning this and denying the industry’s responsibility. Despite this, and however unpleasant it is to the manufacturers of junk food, the underlying facts and this sensible approach to helping New Yorkers should be applauded.

  • charles godwin

    Why don’t you limit how much whiskey you can drink.

  • This isn’t the cause for a hysterical outbreak as many are portraying this to be.
    If a person still wants more pop after downing that 16 ounces, they can buy another pop. Chances are, though, that they’ll find the 16 ounces are enough. That’s the issue: give people 48 ounces and they’ll drink the 48 ounces, even though 16 would be enough.
    What this does is put some reasonable restrictions on the insane cup sizing that will eventually have people lugging around gallon containers filled with this garbage.
    Frankly, I would admire fast food places that start pushing “right size” meals, rather than supersize meals.

  • Jen

    LOL @ Ted! It’s so true though. Even as a local health inspector, I think the government is really overstepping its boundaries when it starts telling us what we can and can’t consume. If they are going to start outlawing things that are unhealthy for us, they are going to have to include cigarettes, twinkies, and sitting in front of the tv!!!

  • When I first saw the title of this post, my initial thought was fantastic (in a non-sarcastic tone). The reason is I believe that a majority of the general public, lack the restraint and discipline needed to make healthy decisions while others may just not be educated in what is or is not healthy. Furthermore, I firmly stand behind the idea and efforts of anyone who is taking action to help us as Americans overall to become more healthy.
    For McDonalds this ruling will increase profit margins dramatically because soda is so cheap and has such a large profit margin. Citizens of NYC that object to the idea and new regulation will simply buy multiple beverages to get the desired portion. And lets be honest McDonalds does not need help increasing profit margins since the majority of there menu is unhealthy.
    I do believe that the Health Board of NYC has the right idea with trying to help its citizens make the right decisions however I also think they are approaching it in the wrong manner. I give my kudos to the NYC Board of Health for trying to make a difference. We all need to do our part in way we can.
    On a final thought if it were my way I would say we should increase the prices of junk food including that from fast food chains to a point that it becomes a special occasion to eat it. While on the other side of the coin the healthy foods like fresh fruits and vegetables go down in price to a point that people are enforced and encouraged to eat healthy.
    @Jen The Health Inspector. I don’t feel like the government is doing enough and you feel like they are doing to much. I am not sure I understand your point of view on this issue.
    The fact of the matter is that a Twinkie for example contains 39 ingredients and our government subsidizes 12 of those ingredients. Lets face it Twinkies are one of the worst types of foods we can eat with regards to our health. Yet the US government supports that kind of end product.
    Then government officials including people like Michelle Obama pretend to care and initiate “Healthy” lunch programs for schools. When what needs to be done is the US government needs to stop subsidizing junk ingredients and start subsidizing things like carrots, green beans, peas and so on. Something is truly wrong with this picture is you ask me! And our government officals have no room to complain about the obesity and diabetic epidemic this country is facing when they are looking at all the wrong solutions in my opinion.
    Chef Ricky

  • JDG

    “the underlying facts and this sensible approach to helping New Yorkers should be applauded.”
    No, it most certainly should not. You’re blatantly insulting the intelligence of every New Yorker by implying they are too fat and uneducated to help themselves so the nanny-state government needs to intervene. Aren’t there more serious issues to deal with than chopping away at people’s freedoms to choose a beverage size? It is inevitable that people will make bad choices when given the freedom to do so, but we should be protecting every free choice no matter how stupid someone else perceives it to be. The only reason that larger drinks exist is because the market demands it. Let the market (the general consumer) decide what it wants.
    Not only that, but you simply cannont legislate people into good health. A healthy diet is a choice, not a law. Where does it end? It’s horrifying how government embeds its tentacles ever more deeply into our lives in the name of “Public Health.” First, we were told that caloric values posted on packages would reduce obesity. Then we were told that completely removing trans fats would improve health while reducing obesity. After that, McDonald’s was shamed into removing the Super Size option in order to reduce obesity. We now have more obese people than before even after all of these pitiful regulations and government’s only ‘bright idea’ is to ban large sodas?! What’s next, a government mandated daily exercise program?
    Bloomberg is a pathetic one trick pony, hell-bent on achieving some unattainable skinny euphoria. My weight and beverage choice is none of his business, and he obviously has way too much time on his hands. Vote the bum out, NYC.

  • This is just another move to run the lives of Americans. If they really cared about obesity and the health of their constituents they would make truly effective moves. How about targeting the HFCS in all our foods? How about targeting GMO’s in our foods? How about removing all the non food additives and chemicals that are put in our foods that should not be in there in the first place?
    The truth is that not a move will be made against the Mega Corporations that fill their pockets with the poisons the average consumer unwittingly eats on a daily basis. This is not about health or obesity , this is about control. When government begins to take substantial and honest steps toward food safety reform by targeting the culprits who peddle the poisons. Then they will indeed be fulfilling their premise to protect the people. As it stands they are just pushing the little guy around and grandstanding, period!

  • I’m sorry I can’t resist, I read the comments after my original comment and feel like I have to say what has come to mind. Food is my world, my love, my passion and my business.
    First of all I’d like to make a response to JDG’s comment.
    @JDG, I agree with your opening statement “The underlying facts and this sensible approach to helping New Yorkers should be applauded.” Then I realized you were merley being facicious.
    The intelligence of New Yorkers has not been question here with this possible new policy. Nor was it to make the entire country’s populous “Skinny” as you put it. The facts are as follows.
    Most people in general lack self discipline, so they will have the 48 ounce Coke. I’m among those that lack self dicipline from time to time and splurge on various foods and beverages that I know are not good for me.
    I agree with you when you made the statement that “You simply cannot legislate people into good health.” as well as the example of past legislation that you gave are out of line and were not a solution to the problems our nation is facing. As I stated in my previous comment I applaud the NYC Board of Health for the effort but believe they are approaching the issue in the wrong fashion and there is a better way to encourage healthy eating and moderation which is key with anything we consume. And I touched on that in my previous comment as well.
    The reason our government is stepping even though they are going about it wrong is because diabetes has reached an all time high and cost more than 98 Billion dollars in 2011. Which is most commonly caused by obesity. Obesity does not just generate additional diabetes patients but also creates numerous cases of heart disease, hyoertension, and osteoartritis all of which cost billions more annually and is on the rise. Weather you realize it or not this epidemic and I do believe its an epidemic costs not only our governement these billions of dollars but it also cause your taxes, my taxes and the rest of the countries tax paying citizens.
    Next I’d like to address Linda’s comment.
    @Linda I dont feel like the US governemt is looking for ways of control across the board, yes with certain aspects I’d have to say I agree but not here and not on this topic.
    I also agree that the United States government needs to take action against these major businesses that are pushing products that will ultimately kill us. I touched on what I feel would be a great start, and no I dont think it will fix it over night.
    Chef Ricky

  • JDG, your comment implies that only the person suffers the consequences of a bad choice. If that were true, your plaint might have some validity, but we already know that society, as a whole, suffers from obesity–not just the individuals.
    We can’t legislate good health, but we can put in place business regulations against actions that run counter to the public good.
    No, the market really didn’t drive the larger drinks–the companies came up with the idea, and advertising drove the market. “If 16 ounces is good, think how much better 48 ounces would be!”
    It’s a way of making people think they’re getting value for their money: give them huge containers of very cheap pop, and they’ll think they’re getting more for their dollar.
    It’s a bit of a con, really.

  • Linda, think about your comment for a moment.
    On the one hand, you reject government intervention in the size of soft drink containers, but on the other, you demand government intervention when it comes to HFCS in the pop in these containers (and GMO and food additives and so on).
    You rant against Mega Corporations, yet the organizations most against this drink cup size reduction ruling are Mega Corporations–with Coca Cola, a major player in the food industry, in the forefront.
    Can you not see the disconnect?

  • husna aijaz

    NYC’s proposal to ban sugary drinks is an excellent initiative that can be adopted by other states across our nation. Obesity is a National epidemic and our government has stepped forward and taken measures to protect the health of its consumers. An average 16 oz drink has approximately 8-10 teaspoon of sugar, and that coupled with 365 days of consumption can unnecessarily burden our health and lead to increased health care costs. It is not that the state department is asking to ban sugary drinks, but only limit the size.
    As for the proposal not affecting diet sodas, I do believe diet soda portion size should be reduced as well as they large amounts of non-nutritive sweeteners. Scientific studies have shown sweeteners like aspartame, sucralose,Acesulfame potassium combined with caramel color added to sodas can lead to carcinogenic changes in animals and humans.

  • Jen

    Obesity is costing the government and ultimately the taxpayers tons of money.. but if we get rid of obesity.. there will always be something else that is going to cost taxpayers TONS of money. I’m sorry.. I just do not think it is the government’s job to try to ban this that or the other to make us all healthy and consequently cost less. If people choose to eat horrible things, be ridiculously fat, and die by 45, that is their choice! Tax the heck out of junk food. Let health insurance companies jack up their premiums if their BMI is too high, or blood pressure or cholesterol is too high. Then the individual can decide if they want to spend more money and continue on the way they do.. or make a choice to be healthier. I hate this government regulation that tries to force people to lead healthier lives. This is America.. it is people’s God given right to choose what they want to eat, when they want to eat, and how they want to eat it! Do I agree with the lifestyle many americans have adopted? No. Do I think we should eat more vegetables, less meat, and less dairy? Absolutely. Would I force that on someone else? No. I hate artificial sweeteners, dyes, pesticides, things loaded with trans fats and sugar and 50 ingredients we cannot pronounce.. but it is 2012 and people do have the ability to make educated decisions if they want to. Do they want to? Mostly no.. people would rather go on day by day consuming what they want because it tastes good and change is often harder than staying the same.
    Let them eat cake.

  • Bob

    Hi Linda,
    I too say Great Blog! There are so many ways to skin a cat and out of all of them, I must agree with Chef Ricky. STOP SUBSIDIZING THE JUNK FOOD INDUSTRY!!! Our choices have to be put in perspective. The govt is spending OUR MONEY by subsidizing industries. This isn’t their money, it’s our taxpayer dollars they’re spending. Why don’t American Citizens see this FACT! If WE LIMIT the govt subsidies of our money (tax dollars) these industries would not be gigantic in profits and the Obesity problem would not be so huge. Our choices of foods is being put back to limitation – remember years ago when Pellagra was proven to be diet related? Well, taxpayers – wake up and invest in healthy food industries. Chef Ricky – Excellent Point!

  • Eric Eldreth

    So, you can smoke, drink alcohol, and in some states smoke Marijuana for “medical reasons”…however, you can’t drink a sugary drink. Nice…makes perfect sense to an idiot.
    Seriously, why don’t we just start giving adults a bedtime so they can get the proper rest.

  • It’s called self discipline and a gym. If you can’t handle these things you’ll never be healthy. Heck, you may do everything right and still end up with a health problem. With the exception of a glass of orange juice I don’t drink anything but water. It is a choice, but once a month or so I like a big ice cold coca cola. I don’t need a law to limit how much I can drink because other people can’t control themselves. That is the most absurd and Communist thing I have ever heard of. What is wrong with the people that support this law? Land of the free? If we continue along this path and these lines of thinking its going to be the land of the regulated.