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NYC Health Dept: Sugary drinks limit is reasonable
“It would be irresponsible for (the health board) not to act in the face of an epidemic of this proportion,” the city says in court papers. The National Association of Local Boards of Health and several public health scholars have backed the city’s position in filings of their own.
Opponents portray the regulation as government nagging that turns sugary drinks into a scapegoat when many factors are at play in the nation’s growing girth.
The American Beverage Association and other groups, including movie theater owners and Korean grocers, sued. They argue that the first-of-its-kind restriction should have gone before the elected City Council instead of being approved by the Bloomberg-appointed health board.
Five City Council members echo that view in a court filing, saying the Council is “the proper forum for balancing the city’s myriad interests in matters of public health.” The Bloomberg administration counters that the health board, made up of doctors and other health professionals, has the “specialized expertise” needed to make the call on limiting cola sizes.
The lawsuit also argues the rule is too narrow to be fair. Alcohol, unsweetened juice and milk-based drinks are excluded, as are supermarkets and many convenience stores _ including 7-Eleven, home of the Big Gulp _ that aren’t subject to city health regulations.
“This sweeping regulation will no doubt burden and disproportionally impact minority-owned businesses at a time when these businesses can least afford it,” they said in court papers. They say the city should focus instead on increasing physical education in schools.
During Bloomberg’s 11-year tenure, the city also has made chain restaurants post calorie counts on their menus and barred artificial trans fats in french fries and other restaurant food.
In general, state and local governments have considerable authority to enact laws intended to protect people’s health and safety, but it remains to be seen how a court will view a portion-size restriction, said Neal Fortin, director, Institute for Food Laws and Regulations at Michigan State University.
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