Last week, New York’s State Court of Appeals struck down a final plea by the NYC Board of Health to allow limitations on sugary beverage serving size. As you may recall, in May 2012, then mayor Michael Bloomberg led the city’s health board to ban the sale of large sugary drinks (over 16 fluid ounces) in food establishments such as restaurants, movie theaters, delis, food trucks, and street carts.
The beverage industry, understanding the threat of New York’s actions, moved swiftly to repeal the ban, working on both public sentiment (through ads) and legal channels. In March 2013, New York’s Supreme Court struck it down as no less than “arbitrary and capricious”. The city appealed, but was unable to overturn the original ruling.
There is a silver lining though. The judgement was not unanimous, with 4 judges against the appeal, and 2 judges dissenting:
In a blistering dissent of the opinion, Judge Susan P. Read wrote that the ruling ignored decades of precedent in which the board was given broad purview to address public health matters, such as regulating the city’s water supply and banning the use of lead paint in homes.
The opinion, Judge Read wrote, “misapprehends, mischaracterizes and thereby curtails the powers of the New York City Board of Health to address the public health threats of the early 21st century.” Read more from The New York Times…
Thankfully, Judge Read and another colleague understand the context of the soda limitations. There is a clear and present danger to Americans’ health, and its the junk food industry. Armed with billions in cash to fund ad campaigns, PR, lobbying firms, and expensive lawyers, these companies will paint any government activity aimed at leveling the nutrition playing field as “communism”, “nanny state”, or “unconstitutional”. Meanwhile, sugary drinks and junk foods are costing each one us thousands of extra dollars every year in health care costs.
The beverage industry’s massive profits come through the externalization of the real cost of obesity and diabetes to the nation. Even if you don’t drink a single sip of cola, your taxes and healthcare premiums are paying for Coca Cola’s shareholder dividends. Does that sound fair?
It’s interesting to note that current mayor of NYC, Bill de Blasio, who agreed with his predecessor on almost nothing, is actually in favor of the soda limitation. Let’s hope New York City will continue to be creative in its public health policy, to the benefit of its denizens, and as an example to the rest of the country.