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New York City Fight Against Soda Expands to Fruit-Flavored Drinks

New York City Fight Against Soda Expands to Fruit-Flavored Drinks

With the prospect of sacrificing Big Gulps, New Yorkers cling to Minute Maid lemonade


New York City expands ban on large sodas to fruit-flavored sports drinks, teas, and energy drinks.

In the midst of its lawsuit against the American Beverage Association (the trade association representing giants like Coca-Cola and PepsiCo), the New York City Health Department has expanded its battle against sugary drinks to include fruit-flavored sports drinks, teas, and energy drinks.

According to, the newly devised campaign plans to exploit drink companies that market their products as high in antioxidants, vitamins, and energy, saying they may be unhealthy in other ways. The campaign includes new television ads and subway placards implemented today, June 3, with pictures displaying sugar-induced health concerns, such as diabetes amputations and failed organs.

Chris Gindlesperger, a spokesman for the American Beverage Association, claims that the Health Department is oversimplifying obesity as a disease. “The public does not believe that solutions to obesity are as simplistic as a ban on the size of just one item that people consume, nor should they,” said Gindlesperger.

In March, New York State Supreme Court Judge Milton Tingling turned down Mayor Bloomberg’s obesity-reducing plan to prohibit the sale of sugary drinks in cups or containers larger than 16 ounces. The city appealed the March decision, and new arguments will be heard June 11, according to the city and the ABA.

Soda ban rejected for NYC: So are soft drinks good for you?

What does Mayor Bloomberg have to say about soda, soft drinks and sugary drinks&rsquo health risks these days? His proposed ban on Big Sodas for New York City fizzled out like a can of ginger ale gone flat. But people are still wondering: Does this mean sugary drinks are good for us?

The state&rsquos highest court refused to reinstate the city&rsquos controversial limits on sales of jumbo sugary drinks a year ago this June, quashing the hopes of health advocates who want governments to curb the consumption of drinks and foods linked to obesity.

But Bloomberg and soda will be forever linked. He put up a fight for public health and had powerful beverage companies on red alert, fearing their products would be forever tainted. The controversy also sparked a global debate over soda consumption and sugary drinks&rsquo health risks.

'Sigh of relief'

In his ruling, Judge Tingling wrote that loopholes in the law "effectively defeat the stated purpose".

The American Beverage Association, which is leading the fight against the ban, welcomed the decision.

"The court ruling provides a sigh of relief to New Yorkers and thousands of small businesses in New York City that would have been harmed by this arbitrary and unpopular ban," it said.

The law would apply to places serving food, ranging from pizzerias to sports stadiums and cinemas, though not at supermarkets or stores.

The measure was approved in September by the city Board of Health to come into force on 12 March, with fines of $200 (£134) not to be levied until June.

The judge ruled that the Bloomberg-appointed board had strayed into legislative territory that should belong to the elected City Council.

Mayor Bloomberg responded to the ruling by telling a news conference: "We think the judge is totally in error in the way he interpreted the law and we are very confident that we will win on appeal.

"One of the cases we will make is that people are dying every day. This is not a joke. Five thousand people die of obesity every day in America," he added.

NYC Sugary Drink Ban: No More Big Gulps?

Update: A Judge in New York City late Monday stopped the ban from going into place on Tuesday, saying the regulation was "fraught with arbitrary and capricious consequences." The Mayor's office issued a statement shortly after saying they planned to appeal the decision and "are confident the measure will ultimately be upheld."

If God hadn't meant for us to eat sugar, he wouldn't have invented dentists." Ralph Nader, consumer advocate.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg doesn't share Ralph Nader's higher power rationale for a sweet tooth, as residents of the city's five boroughs have learned. And the sour taste from that lesson begins this Tuesday.

That's when the ban on sales of big sugary laced drinks — a ban he championed for months and got approved by the city board of health — goes into effect. (Read More: Health-Care Reform Biggest Challenge: J&J CEO)

The regulation has drawn national attention and the wrath of many New Yorkers — polls show up to 60 percent disapprove of the ban — as well as from those who don't even live in the Big Apple, according to local web site comments.

Sal Ruibal from DC on "They can have my quadruple-sugared macchiato when they pry it from my fat, cold fingers."

Scarlett from Pittsburgh on "I have loved NYC since I visited it in 1967 and I have been there more times than I can count but now I will not go back. When a city government can tell me what I can drink, how much sugar I put in my coffee and some of the other unlawful regulations, I will not patronize New York. We are a FREE country, right? "

Red from New York on the "What is next, no neckties because they are a known choking hazard? No white shirts, they require toxic bleaching? No dry cleaning, it spreads dangerous solvents?"

Of course, there are those who say they support the ban, even in New York.

Cee from NY on the "You are what you eat . given the alarming percentage of Americans who are overweight and the impact that has on our healthcare system and cost, we should be happy that there are those out there trying to address the public health problem."

Cchen from Germantown on "We regulate the financial industry to make sure they don't take advantage of those people who are not smart enough to know what is in their best interests, so why shouldn't we do the same for the food and beverage industry."

So which drinks will actually cause city consumers to suffer the sugar blues? What places will be forced to stop selling those super sized slurpees?

And does a tall half-skinny half-1 percent extra hot split quad shot (two shots decaf, two shots regular) latte with whip from Starbucks have to be pried from someone's lukewarm — and likely sugar free — dead hand? That all depends.

The ban hits sugary drinks like sodas that come in more than a 16 ounce container. Those big super sized 32 ounce drinks and beyond, will no longer be sold in most places.

The big sugar drink ban applies to restaurants, fast-food chains like McDonald's and Burger King, movie and stage theaters, delis and office cafeterias.

However, sugar lovers take note: there are some sweet spots still left open. Those are convenience stores, drug stores and supermarkets. They can keep selling any kind of sugary drink in the larger sizes.

So, while a a delicatessen or a Dunkin Donuts can't sell a big sugary drink larger than 16 ounces, a Duane Reade pharmacy down the street can sell a 20 ounce drink . a 26 ounce . a 32 ounce . a 64 ounce . or a 120 ounce, if they have it.

And anyone who buys a 16 ounce drink in a place that's banned from selling bigger sizes, will be allowed to refill their cup, depending on the place where they get it, and won't be forbidden from buying more than one drink.

Two key exceptions to the ban are diet sodas or fruit juices. Those can still be sold anywhere at any size. Also exempt from the ban are any alcoholic beverages.

Where the ban gets somewhat complicated is at a favorite coffee shop. Coffee drinks that are 16 ounces in size or smaller are unaffected. (Read more: Obamacare Wellness Programs Could Raise Health Costs)

But cups of java that are larger than 16 ounces can only be served if the barista adds no more than three to five packets of sugar to it. The number of packets depends on the size of the cup. The smaller the size the fewer packets can be put in.

Once a consumer has the drink in their own hands, however, they can go sweetly crazy and add as much sugar as they want.

Coffee lovers who need their sugar fix handed to them in large amounts might want to think about adding milk to their brew instead of having it black. That's because the ban does not apply to coffee concoctions that are more than 50 percent milk. The city considers milk a source of nutrition, even if it's drowned in sugar.

One other note, baristas can add as much of those sugar substitutes like Equal, Splenda and Sweet 'n Low to a cup, as they are not restricted by the new law for any size of coffee.

Sellers of the big drinks will have a three month grace period after Tuesday to get used to the law. But city officials have said they plan to start enforcing the ban immediately, and at least handing out warnings to violators. They could face up to $200 in fines after the grace period ends.

There's no fine for anyone buying the banned drinks, at least not yet.

Complaints about the ban have come from more than just potential customers. Makers and sellers of sodas and sweet drinks, including Coca-Cola and McDonald's, have attacked it as "misguided" and "arbitrary." A soft drink industry-sponsored group spent more than $1 million on a public-relations campaign in a losing cause against the ban.

The $61 billion a year soft drink industry has teamed up with various groups, including the National Association of Theatre Owners and the National Restaurant Association in a lawsuit against the ban, even after a local judge dismissed a legal challenge to the measure in January.

Bloomberg has billed the law as both a health and fiscal initiative to stop diabetes and obesity. New York City spends an estimated $4 billion each year on medical care for overweight people, Bloomberg has said.

And Bloomberg is no stranger to outlawing personal behaviors he didn't like, taking on salt and continuing his fight against cigarettes. He's pushed for food manufacturers to lower their products' salt content. In 2010, he announced that about 30 companies, like Kraft and Goya, had signed up to reduce salt in foods by 25 percent within five years, as a way of lowering consumers' blood pressure.

Last year, he signed a law making it illegal to smoke in the city's 1,700 parks and on the city's 14 miles of public beaches. Smoking is also prohibited in pedestrian plazas like Times Square.

Other cities have done the same about smoking. In states including California, Texas, Illinois, Minnesota, Utah and New Jersey, municipalities impose laws that prohibit city parks, or specifically named city parks, to allow smoking.

Whether other cities and states follow in New York's footsteps on a wide ranging sugar drink ban is uncertain. Most seem to be taking a wait-and-see attitude, though one other city moved in that direction even before the Big Apple.

Trying to decrease Boston's rising obesity rates, Mayor Thomas Menino issued an executive order in 2011 banning the sale and advertising of sugar-loaded drinks from city-owned buildings and city-sponsored events.

San Francisco and Los Angeles are among several cities that have also curtailed sugary drink sales on municipal property as well as banning sugary drinks and candy from public school vending machines since 2010.

More recently, several candidates for the Washington D.C. council have said they favor enacting a similar soda ban like New York's.

Americans consume on average more than 200 calories each day from sugary drinks — four times what they consumed in 1965 and medical evidence indicates that the rising thirst for the so called "liquid candy" has been a major contributor to the obesity and diabetes epidemics. (Read More: Despite Obesity Rise, Calories Trending Downward)

But getting a consensus on whether a partial ban on sugary drinks is the right thing to do may be as difficult as —agreeing on how much sugar people like in their coffee.

Public health takes aim at sugar and salt

The war on obesity and other lifestyle ills has opened a new battlefront: the fight against sugar and salt.

It may be a fight for our lives.

In the last few years, evidence has mounted that too much of these appealing ingredients—often invisibly insinuated into beverages, processed foods, and restaurant fare—harms health.

Research at the Harvard School of Public Health and elsewhere, for example, has tied sugary drinks to an epidemic of obesity in the United States. The average 12-ounce can of soda contains 10 teaspoons of sugar, and the average teenage boy consumes nearly three cans of sugary drinks a day. Is it any wonder that about two-thirds of Americans are now overweight or obese?

Obesity, in turn, raises the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, and certain cancers. Meanwhile, studies have linked salty diets to high blood pressure, which increases the risk of heart attacks and strokes, the first and third leading causes of death in the United States.

At HSPH, the Department of Nutrition is helping to lead the charge for healthier consumer fare. In April, at a widely covered press conference, the department’s faculty publicly challenged beverage makers to create a class of drinks with 70 percent less sugar—a partial reduction that could lower obesity and diabetes rates within a year, they believe. On the salt side, experts estimate that cutting average sodium consumption by one-half could prevent at least 150,000 deaths annually in the United States.

Bolstering this two-pronged public health campaign has been a shift in national political philosophy. “The previous administration believed that market forces solved everything and that regulation was off the table. But market forces, left alone, damaged the economy,” says Walter Willett, Chair of the Department of Nutrition and Fredrick John Stare Professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition. “That also applies to the food supply and health. Market forces don’t promote a healthy diet—in fact, they do exactly the opposite. We made a lot of progress on trans fat. Now the biggest issue, outside of too many calories, is the huge amount of sugar and salt.”

As in many recent public health campaigns, New York City has been ahead of the pack. Its “Healthy Heart-Cut the Salt” program, now a nationwide effort by a coalition of health organizations and public agencies, works with food industry leaders on a voluntary framework to cut salt in their products. “New York City created a market for trans-fat-free foods, and it will create a market for lower-sodium foods,” Willett predicts. In May, President Barack Obama picked Thomas R. Frieden, New York City’s health commissioner, to direct the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), installing a fierce advocate for lowering salt and taxing sugary beverages in a position to bring about change.


In the School’s current battle plan, the prime target is sugar in sodas, fruit juices and other cloying drinks. Here’s why:

  • Downing just one 12-ounce can of a typical sweetened beverage daily can add 15 pounds in a year.
  • In children, one sweetened beverage a day fuels a 60 percent increase in the risk of obesity—and American teenaged boys drink almost three times that much.
  • This April, an HSPH study linked sugary drinks to increased risk of heart disease in adults. Scientists have long known that sugar reduces the “good” HDL cholesterol in the blood. Consistent with this effect, the April study showed that it wasn’t just weight gain that raised heart disease risk, but sugar itself—eating an otherwise healthy diet or being at a healthy weight only slightly diminished the risk.
  • In 2004, the Nurses’ Health Study found that women who had one or more servings a day of a sugar-sweetened soft drink or fruit punch were nearly twice as likely to develop type 2 diabetes as those who rarely imbibed these beverages.

As a dietary enemy, sugar is cleverly camouflaged, because it is dissolved in liquid. A typical 20-ounce soda contains 17 teaspoons of sugar. “If people thought about eating 17 teaspoons of sugar, they’d become nauseated,” Willett says. “But they are able to drink it right down and go for another.” While we normally balance a big meal by taking in fewer calories later, that compensation doesn’t seem to occur after guzzling soft drinks—possibly because fluids are not as satiating as solid foods, or because sweet-tasting soft drinks whet the appetite for high-carbohydrate foods.

Willett and Lilian Cheung, lecturer in the Department of Nutrition and editorial director of The Nutrition Source, urge people to choose drinks far lower in sugar and calories: options such as water, tea, seltzer with a splash of juice, coffee with one lump of sugar.

“If we can shift the present American norm back to a lower expectation of sweetness, people will adjust their palates, particularly the younger population,” says Cheung.


Almost 80 percent of the salt in the American diet comes not from the salt shaker, but from processed or restaurant foods. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, in 2005 and 2006, the average American on a 2,000-calorie-per-day diet devoured more than 3,400 mg of salt per day (mg/d). That’s substantially more than current dietary guidelines, which recommend that adults in general consume no more than 2,300 mg/d—about a teaspoon.

Several years ago, the National Institutes of Health’s Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension-Sodium clinical trial (DASH-Sodium), led by HSPH’s Frank Sacks, professor of cardiovascular disease prevention, found that the biggest blood-pressure-lowering benefits came to those eating at the lowest sodium level tested, 1,500 mg/d. For those prone to high blood pressure, people over 40 and African Americans—groups that together represent nearly 70 percent of the population—the CDC likewise advises no more than 1,500 mg/d.

That 1,500 mg/d threshold would require cutting sodium in processed and restaurant foods by about 80 percent. Though it may sound drastic, the goal is more urgent than ever. In 1982, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) called on the food industry to voluntarily reduce sodium levels in processed foods—yet sodium consumption has steadily drifted upward. By 2000, men were eating 48 percent more salt than they did in the early 1970s, and women 69 percent more.


To wean ourselves from excess sugar, the Department of Nutrition’s challenge uses a benchmark of one gram of sugar per ounce, which equates to a 12-ounce soda that contains three teaspoons of sugar and 50 calories. “We’ve suggested that manufacturers provide an option in between high-sugar and sugar-free drinks,” Willett says, “to help people step down if they can’t go cold turkey from full sugar to no sugar.” The department is currently discussing the challenge with Obama administration officials. While Willett and others are not directly in contact with manufacturers, the challenge’s press coverage has stirred debate within the beverage industry, and several small start-ups are introducing low-sugar drinks.

The HSPH challenge further proposes that the FDA require manufacturers to label the fronts of their cans and bottles with information on total contents rather than per-serving quantities. Currently, most consumers assume that a single package of chips or bottle of soda is a single serving. Only upon close inspection do they discover that there are two or more “servings” in the package. Willett has called for an initial reduction of salt in processed foods of up to 20 percent—a change that studies show does not perceptibly affect taste.


In its forceful call to action, HSPH joins a growing chorus of health experts demanding change. “New Horizons for a Healthy America: Recommendations to the New Administration,” a report issued in April by the Commission on U.S. Federal Leadership in Health and Medicine: Charting Future Directions, describes sugary beverages and salty processed foods as “serious concerns” for the Obama administration. The Washington, D.C.-based Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has also pressed Congress and the administration to act.

Looking to economic levers to cut consumption, Willett proposes a national sales or excise tax of up to 18 percent on sodas and candy. Along with CSPI, the Department of Nutrition submitted a letter to Congress in June supporting a tax on full-sugar beverages Willett has also testified before the Massachusetts Legislature in support of such a bill. Some of this tax could be used to subsidize healthy but relatively expensive alternatives, such as fresh fruits and vegetables. Willett would also rewrite government procurement policies to help set new industry standards. In his view, food services at military facilities, hospitals, government organizations, and schools should all phase out highly sweetened beverages in favor of low-sugar options.

And Willett has called for a ban on child-focused marketing for sweetened drinks—since children and teens drink most of their sugary calories at home. “There should be strong regulations, with real teeth in them, against advertising to children. It’s immoral—criminal, even—to have children’s health undermined for the sake of profit,” he says. To this end, Willett has also contemplated lawsuits on behalf of children: “If a child is encouraged to consume these beverages by a fast-food chain, without being warned of the consequences, and they develop diabetes, is there not some liability?

“We will use all levers possible, as we have done for trans fat elimination,” he adds. “Public education is central to this effort, and talking to journalists is a great multiplier of information.” A Reuters news service story on the department’s industry challenge was picked up from Canada to China, and in JuneUSA Today ran a major story on the topic. Nutrition department investigators are also preparing a scientific review article for a leading medical journal about the deleterious consequences of high-sugar drinks.

The HSPH Department of Nutrition is raising funds to set up a research and information center that would conduct, compile, and disseminate studies on the health implications of sugar-sweetened beverages. The center’s mission: to educate policy makers and the public.

So far, food manufacturers have not widely reformulated their products, for fear of losing customers and getting ahead of taste trends. But other nations, such as Finland, have proven not only that palates can grow more refined when governments embark on full-scale efforts steering people toward more wholesome fare, but that population health dramatically improves when they do. (See: What Other Countries Have Done)

For now, Willett intends to point public health’s artillery toward sodas and other sweetened drinks. “Going for the low-hanging fruit is the first step, and the sugared beverage area is the place,” he says. “These products are in a class with tobacco. There’s only harm, no benefit.”

Photograph: Kent Dayton/HSPH

Larry Hand is associate editor of the Review.
Madeline Drexler is guest editor of this issue of the

Two Top Medical Groups Call for Soda Taxes and Advertising Curbs on Sugary Drinks

Two of the country’s leading medical groups on Monday issued a call to arms against the soda industry, urging legislators and policymakers to embrace taxes, warning labels and advertising restrictions to deter young people from consuming the sugary beverages that are increasingly linked to the nation’s crisis of obesity and chronic disease.

Describing sweetened drinks as “a grave health threat to children and adolescents,” the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Heart Association issued a set of bold policy recommendations they say are necessary to stem the epidemic of Type 2 diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease and other diet-related illnesses responsible for tens of thousands of premature deaths and billions of dollars in annual health care costs.

The organizations say such measures are needed if the United States is to adhere to federal dietary guidelines recommending that added sugars make up less than 10 percent of the total calories consumed by children and adolescents. The figure now stands at 17 percent, with nearly half of that coming from sugary sports drinks, carbonated sodas and fruit-flavored beverages, according to studies. The guidelines do not include sugars found naturally in 100 percent fruit juices.

“Sugary drinks are empty calories and they are the low-hanging fruit in the fight against childhood obesity,” said Dr. Sheela Magge, a pediatric endocrinologist at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center who took part in crafting the recommendations.

The statement, more than two years in the making, reflects the growing sense of urgency among doctors — and the frustration over what many describe as government inaction in the face of a national health emergency.

“I’ve seen 2-year-olds with fatty liver disease and teenagers with Type 2 diabetes,” said Dr. Natalie Muth, a California pediatrician and a lead author of the recommendations. “These are diseases we used to see in their grandparents. It’s frustrating because as pediatricians we feel like we’re doing everything we can, but it’s hard to compete with a $800-million-a-year marketing strategy by the soda industry.”

The recommendations embrace a range of initiatives, some of them untested — like federal curbs on junk food advertising — and measures like soda taxes that have been effective in reducing soda consumption.

Most are likely to face resistance from the powerful beverage industry, which has fought back vigorously against any government efforts to dampen consumption of sugar-laden drinks.

Still, some of the policy suggestions would be relatively easy to achieve, like increased funding for public education programs to highlight the dangers of excess sugar consumption or changes to the federal food program that serves millions of poor children. The Supplemental Nutrition Program, or SNAP, pays for 20 million servings of sugary drinks a day, at an annual cost of $4 billion. Barring recipients from using benefits to buy unhealthy beverages, researchers say, could prevent 52,000 deaths from Type 2 diabetes.

Other small, symbolic steps they recommend could have an outsize impact, like encouraging health care institutions to remove sugary drinks from cafeteria menus and vending machines.

“As with the ban on tobacco, leadership by hospitals and health plans to eliminate the sale of sugary drinks can improve the health of their employees, increase public awareness about the contribution of sugary drinks to obesity, and thereby change social norms,” the medical groups said.

William Dermody, a spokesman for the American Beverage Association, said sugary drinks were being unfairly blamed for soaring rates of obesity and diabetes, and he said there were better ways to discourage sugar consumption among children. The industry, he noted, was focused on creating healthier products, including bottled water and low-sugar drinks, part of an industry initiative to cut by 20 percent the calorie count in beverages by 2025.

“America’s beverage companies believe there’s a better way to help reduce the amount of sugar consumers get from beverages and it includes putting parents in the driver’s seat to decide what’s best for their children,” he said in a statement.

But parents, especially those who work long hours, are not always around to police what their children are drinking. When it comes to teenagers, the challenge is even greater.

“Parents can only do so much, especially in single-parent households,” Dr. Magge of Johns Hopkins said.

Dr. Jim Krieger, executive director of Healthy Food America, said the industry could not be trusted to oversee the consumption of the unhealthy products it depends on for its profits.

Take, for example, the initiative to voluntarily reduce the sugar content in beverages. Dr. Krieger said the effort was off to a slow start, with only a 3 percent reduction since the effort began in 2014.

Although sugary soda consumption in the United States has dropped since 2000, recent data suggests the decline has plateaued in recent years and rates remain stubbornly high in poor communities, and especially among minority adolescents. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the obesity rate is nearly 19 percent among the poorest Americans ages 2 to 19, eight percentage points higher than those in wealthier communities.

Federal studies have also shown that beverage companies spend a disproportionate share of their marketing dollars on campaigns aimed at minority youth, and researchers say such advertisements have been growing in recent years despite a voluntary, industry-wide initiative to reduce ads for unhealthy products.

Many public health advocates have called for federal regulation, much like the 1971 rule that banned cigarette ads on radio and television. The medical associations acknowledged that such restrictions would face an uphill battle but suggested Congress could modify tax laws that allow beverage companies to deduct advertising costs for unhealthy food and beverages.

State governments, they added, could enact rules that ban the marketing of such foods in and around schools and prohibit the makers of sugary drinks from sponsoring youth sporting events.

But when it comes to curbing the zeal for sugary drinks, the medical groups say that higher taxes hold the greatest promise to change habits. From Mexico to Chile and from Philadelphia to Berkeley, Calif., the introduction of soda taxes in recent years has led to significant declines in soda consumption, with a 10 percent tax on average associated with a 7 percent drop in consumption, according to researchers.

Another study found that soda taxes, if widely enacted, could prevent more than a half-million cases of childhood obesity.

The medical associations’ recommendations acknowledge that soda taxes would disproportionately affect the poor but that such communities would stand to benefit if the revenue was spent to enhance early education and programs that subsidize the price of healthy food and beverages.

Benjamin Winig, vice president for law and policy at ChangeLab Solutions, an advocacy group, said he hoped the new recommendations would help build the political will needed to overcome increasingly muscular pushback from beverage manufacturers.

Faced with a surge of local soda taxes, the industry has been backing so-called pre-emptive legislation at the state level that prohibits municipalities from creating taxes on food and beverages. The effort has been successful in states including California, Michigan and Washington.

In the end, though, he said local municipalities were in the best position to address the growing crisis of childhood obesity.

“The public health community is winning, but it’s a very difficult battle,” he said. “Our kids are getting sick and dying and what we really need is for government to step up their mission to keep people safe.”

Most Read

That success energized health advocates back in the U.S. Last November, voters in Berkeley, California passed a referendum for a one-cent-per-ounce soda tax by a whopping three-to-one margin. Across the bay, a majority of voters in San Francisco supported that city's own soda tax proposal, but it failed to pass because the rule required a two-thirds majority. It's too early to assess the effect of Berkeley's tax on consumption, but the voter support made the soda tax buzz ever louder around the U.S.

It's time to reconsider the idea here. Rates of obesity and diabetes are still rising in New York, and Dr. Daines' argument still holds. A one-cent-per-ounce tax would add 20 cents to a 20-ounce bottle, which is just enough to nudge people to switch to a beverage without sugar (or better yet, drink tap water for free).

That wouldn't end the obesity epidemic, but would slow it down, preventing many thousands of getting type 2 diabetes. The tax would also bring in roughly a billion dollars a year to the state, which could go into programs to prevent obesity or other pressing government needs, from schools to subway repairs.

We're outraged when we see 300-pound 15-year-olds with type 2 diabetes, which isn't their fault. Now that we're finally onto something that will change our single biggest contributor to that problem, it's time to turn that outrage into action.

Farley, former New York City health commissioner, is author of "Saving Gotham: A Billionaire Mayor, Activist Donors and the Fight for Eight Million Lives."


Under the plan, all New York City regulated restaurants, fast-food establishments, delis, movie theaters, sports stadiums and food carts would be barred from selling sugar-sweetened drinks in cups larger than 16 ounces (0.5 liters). The regulation would not apply to drinks sold in grocery stores including 7-Eleven, which are regulated by the state. [5] In addition, the regulation would exclude: drinks that were more than 70 percent fruit juice, diet sodas, drinks with at least 50% milk or milk substitute, and alcoholic beverages. [6]

The regulation was strongly supported by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and continues to be supported by his successor, Mayor Bill de Blasio. Approximately 32,000 written and oral comments were received in support of the proposal and approximately 6,000 comments were received in opposition. [7] [2] Opponents include beverage companies such as PepsiCo and their independent bottlers and distributors serving the city, which have launched campaigns against the limit. These opposing companies claim the limit would affect lower income families in a negative way. [8] The proposed regulation was also opposed by New York State Conference of the NAACP and the Hispanic Federation, a representative organization for 90 Latino nonprofit agencies providing health and human services in the New York metropolitan area. Coca-Cola has been a major sponsor of the NAACP initiative for healthy eating. Pepsi and Coca-Cola have sponsored the NAACP New York State chapter annual conferences and Coca-Cola was the 2014 co-chair of the Hispanic Federation Gala. [9] The city's attorneys say the number of ounces doesn't matter, and that the number lacks scientific evidence. [10]

Mayor Bill de Blasio also met with Mary Bassett, the city's commissioner for the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Lilliam Barrios-Paoli, the deputy mayor for health and human services, The Coca-Cola Company, PepsiCo Inc., and Dr Pepper Snapple Group in a continuing attempt to regulate the size of high sugary drinks. In September 2014, at the Clinton Global Initiative's annual conference in Manhattan, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and the Dr Pepper Snapple Group voluntarily pledged to reduce US calorie consumption in sugary drinks by an average of 20% by 2025. [11]

On May 30, 2012, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced the portion cap rule, a proposed amendment to article 81 of the New York City Health Code, that would require "food service establishments" (FSEs) to cap at 16 ounces (475 mL) the size of cups and containers used to offer, provide and sell sugary beverages. [2] On June 12, 2012, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) presented to the New York City Board of Health the proposed amendment. [2] On June 19, 2012, a notice of intention to amend article 81 was published in the City Record, [12] and a public hearing was held on July 24, 2012. [7]

On September 13, 2012, the Board of Health voted unanimously to accept the proposed limit. [13] [14] The limit was to take effect six months after passage and be enforced by the city's regular restaurant inspection team, allowing business owners three months to adapt to the changes before facing fines. [15] [16] Those plans fell through due to the invalidation of the regulation by New York Supreme Court Judge Milton Tingling on March 11, 2013. [17] The mayor's office indicated that the city would appeal. [18] On June 11, 2013, the DOHMH went to court to fight the ruling that blocked the limit. [19] On July 30, 2013, the New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division ruled against the proposed limit, saying it violates "the principle of separation of powers" and the board "failed to act within the bounds of its lawfully delegated authority". [2] [20]

On June 26, 2014, the New York Court of Appeals, the state's highest court, ruled that the New York City Board of Health, in adopting the sugary drinks portion cap rule, exceeded the scope of its regulatory authority. [1] [4] [21] The amendment was repealed on July 9, 2015, effective August 8 that year.

Soda Giants Pledge to Make Calorie Cuts

WEDNESDAY, Sept. 24, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- The top U.S. soda makers have agreed to help reduce Americans' consumption of calories from sugary beverages by one-fifth during the next decade -- by shrinking drink sizes and marketing healthier options.

The Coca-Cola Company, PepsiCo Americas Beverages, and the Dr Pepper Snapple Group all pledged to help fight the obesity crisis by steering consumers away from sugary drinks loaded with empty calories.

"This is the single-largest voluntary effort by an industry to help fight obesity and leverages our companies' greatest strengths in marketing, innovation and distribution," said Susan Neely, president and CEO of the American Beverage Association, the companies' national trade association. "This initiative will help transform the beverage landscape in America. It takes our efforts to provide consumers with more choices, smaller portions and fewer calories to an ambitious new level."

The soda giants said they would reduce beverage calories in the American diet 20 percent by 2025. They said they will do so by:

  • Spotlighting diet drinks and bottled water in supermarkets by placing them at the end of aisles, in checkout displays, and on easy-to-reach store shelves.
  • Cutting the amount of sugary soda sold in single cans and bottles, thus reducing portion sizes.
  • Promoting calorie awareness on more than 3 million beverage company-controlled vending machines, self-serve fountains and retail coolers in convenience stores, restaurants and other locations.
  • Introducing and expanding new lower-calorie products.
  • Providing coupons and other incentives that promote purchase of bottled water and diet drinks.

The drink companies crafted their new initiative in cooperation with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, an anti-obesity group founded by the American Heart Association and the Clinton Foundation, and announced it Tuesday at the 10th annual Clinton Global Initiative meeting in New York City.

"I am excited about the potential of this voluntary commitment by the beverage industry. It can be a critical step in our ongoing fight against obesity," said former President Bill Clinton.

Sugary sodas and fruit drinks account for 6 percent of Americans' daily calorie intake, said Dr. Howell Wechsler, CEO of the Alliance for a Healthier Generation.


Clinton noted that a 2006 agreement between the Alliance for a Healthier Generation and the soda companies resulted in a 90 percent reduction in calories from beverages shipped to schools.

The impact of this initiative could be tremendous, added Samantha Heller, senior clinical nutritionist at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City.

"These are very big, powerful companies that, when they make a change, can impact the landscape of human health," Heller said.

This agreement could serve as a blueprint for future healthy diet initiatives, she said. "Wouldn't it be cool if we could encourage food companies to promote fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and beans in a similar fashion?" she added.

However, Heller hopes that the beverage companies' marketing will place as much, if not more, emphasis on bottled water compared with diet sodas.

"I'm not sure diet drinks are the best alternative to sugar-sweetened beverages for most people, but most of these companies also sell bottled water so it's not like they're shooting themselves in the foot," she said.

The American Heart Association issued a statement applauding the soda industry's commitment, and in particular the companies' agreement to place special focus on specific communities where there has been less access to healthier options.

"Their pledge to reduce the visibility and consumption of full calorie sodas, while labeling calorie counts on vending, fountain and retail equipment with a particular emphasis on helping communities in greatest need, is a positive step forward towards improving the public health," the group's statement said.

All the News That’s Fit to Eat: Oakland’s Soda Tax, ‘Natural’ Quaker Oats, and the NYT Sells Meal Kits

Happy May! Start off your month in the know with this week’s food news.

A proposed class action lawsuit against Quaker has been filed on behalf of consumers in New York and California with more states potentially on the way. The lawsuit accuses Quaker—a PepsiCo subsidiary—of false and misleading advertisements, for asserting that its oatmeal is 100 percent natural. A test paid for by the plaintiffs representation, the Richman Law Group, found glyphosate at a level of 1.18 parts per million in a sample of Quaker Oats Quick 1-Minute (or roughly 4 percent of the 30 parts per million that the Environmental Protection Agency allows in cereal grains). Quaker cites its cleansing process as a potential culprit. “Any levels of glyphosate that may remain are trace amounts and significantly below any limits which have been set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as safe for human consumption,” the company said. In addition to consumer refunds, the plaintiffs are also asking that PepsiCo either be required to reformulate the oatmeal or disclose the presence of glyphosate in it.

On Monday, the EPA removed an online report it had posted that concluded glyphosate was unlikely to be carcinogenic to humans. The agency claimed the document was published inadvertently and incompletely—despite the fact that a Reuters reporter reported seeing the word “FINAL” stamped on each page of the report, which was dated October 1, 2015. Last year the World Health Organization classified glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans.” The EPA says it will take into account the position of other global governments and research from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as they finalize their position on glyphosate. The EPA say a peer-reviewed assessment addressing their conclusions will be completed by the end of 2016. In addition to the cancer assessment report, summaries from three 2015 meetings between EPA officials and Monsanto were also removed, including one discussing possible label amendments to two of Monsanto’s Roundup products when used on oilseeds, fruit, and other crops.

The Senate has failed to advance a bill that would have essentially blocked state-level bills requiring the labeling of genetically modified (or GMO) foods. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) had hoped to pass the bill before Vermont’s labeling bill goes into effect this July, but now says there is “zero” chance Congress will approve the bill by then. “I don’t know where we go from here,” he told the Des Moines Register . Lawmakers protecting the rights of large food manufacturers claim labeling would be too great of an expense on the businesses and subsequently the consumers to require custom labels for each state. But consumer advocates say they have a right to know about the agricultural practices behind their food. Meanwhile, many large manufacturers, like Mars, General Mills, Kellogg’s, ConAgra, and Campbell Soup, have all preemptively announced their own GMO labels.

Due to the Freedom of Information Act, scientists at state-funded universities have been forced to disclose emails revealing intimate contact with with the public relations arms of biotech and organic food companies. Last year, the American Egg Board was forced to turn over documents that showed its president tried to organize a public relations campaign against an emerging product called Just Mayo. Now, the Egg Board and all other commodity research and promotion programs (also known as checkoff programs), may be shielded from the public. As part of its annual budget process, the House Appropriations Committee has requested that FOIA not apply to checkoff programs, which are funded by the industries they are designed to promote the industry with ads such as “Beef: It’s what’s for Dinner.” The programs are also controversial because they use government authority to collect money for private companies (and, in most checkoff programs, all the farmers of the said commodity must contribute to the fund).

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This summer, the New York Times will launch a partnership with meal-delivery startup Chef’d, to sell ingredients for recipes from its NYT Cooking website. The iconic newspaper publisher continues to seek new revenue to offset furthering declines in print sales. The Times and Chef’d will split sales from the venture that sends ingredients to readers within 48 hours. Last year, circulation and advertising accounted for about 94 percent of their total revenue. What the media company defined as “other revenues” included rental income, conferences, and e-commerce, all of which generated $95 million in sales. Food delivery business is booming. Companies like Blue Apron have seen tens of millions of dollars in investment in the last few years, and former New York Times food columnist Mark Bittman even left to work for a vegan meal delivery startup called Purple Carrot .

“It is frightening and amazing,” said Dr. Tim Hall, an expert on metabolism at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases when discussing the resting metabolism of the former contestants of the reality television show, the Biggest Loser. The resting metabolism determines how many calories a person burns while idle and it was the subject of an multi-year study Hall and others did on the show’s contenstants. When the show began, the contestants had normal metabolisms. This meant they burned a normal number of calories for people of their relative weight. But at the conclusion of the show, their metabolisms had slowed radically and their bodies were not burning enough calories to maintain their new, smaller sizes. The researchers also found that plummeting levels of leptin, a key cluster of hormones that control hunger, may have also played a part.

On Tuesday evening, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced an outbreak of the deadly Listeria monocytogenes bacteria. Frozen fruits and vegetables are thought to be the cause. Listeria is much less common that other foodborne pathogens like salmonella or E.coli, but it is the most lethal. Although most healthy immune systems can stave off an infection, if the bug makes it into the bloodstream, it kills one in five victims with listeriosis. Those with weakened immune systems are particularly vulnerable. Listeria has been most commonly found in ready-to-eat deli meats, and soft cheeses made with unpasteurized milk. So far, the CDC has reported eight people who have been sickened—six in California and one each in both Washington and Maryland. The patients were all between 56 and 86 years old. The FDA has advised that consumers checking their freezers against UPC codes and “best by” dates on the vegetable packages in their freezers. Here’s the FDA’s list .

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In a unanimous vote, Oakland, California’s City Council voted to place a soda tax on the November ballot. If approved, the city would join neighboring Berkeley, as the second city the nation to add an extra fee onto the cost of sugar-sweetened beverages. The measure, sponsored by councilwoman Annie Campbell Washington would levy a penny-per-ounce fee on sodas, energy drinks, fruit-flavored beverages and more. The measure requires a simple 50 percent majority plus a single vote majority in order to pass. The revenues, expected to be somewhere between $6-$10million, would be spent on health programs. Washington says she expects the soda industry to put up a big fight. When similar measures have come up in other markets (such as Philadelphia and San Francisco), soda companies have spent big on counter-advertising arguing that such taxes unfairly affect the poor and place outsized blame on the companies for complex public health issues. A long list of public health and community groups have already indicated their support for a soda tax in Oakland.

Meanwhile, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is backing a campaign to pass another sugary-drink tax in Philadelphia. Bloomberg has long been an outspoken critic against soda companies, and proposed a number of anti-sugar campaigns (including one that would have capped the size of sugary beverages) while he was mayor of New York. His charitable foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, funded commercials in Berkeley that ran during the World Series and he has also has invested in the Mexico, where a similar tax has been instituted. Surprisingly, it is Bloomberg himself—not his foundation—that is putting up the money in Philadelphia. It will go to the nonprofit Fair Future, which is launching an $825,000 ad campaign to counter the $2.5 million (and counting) investment by the soda industry.

Stephen Satterfield is the Culinary Trust fellow for Civil Eats. He is a food writer, activist, and digital media producer dedicated to helping people deepen their connection to food. While managing Nopa Restaurant in San Francisco, he started a popular food media project called, Nopalize. There he led a team of over 20 creatives, producing hundreds of pieces of original content and dozens of events with the goal of bringing people closer to the food they eat. In October 2015, he began production on his newest venture, Whetstone Magazine, a forthcoming digital and print publication on global food origins and culture. Read more >

Watch the video: Τα καλύτερα φαγητά στη Νέα Υόρκη. New York City Bites (December 2021).