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PICKET: NYC Congressmen critical of Bloomberg big soda ban proposal

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Reuters is reporting that New York City health officials are calling critics of the Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s proposed sugary beverage ban “ridiculous.”: 

(Reuters) - New York City’s top health official shot back on Thursday at critics who have blasted the city’s plan to limit the sale of oversized sugary drinks such as soda, calling beverage industry opposition ridiculous.

The proposed ban, which caps most sugar-sweetened beverages at 16 ounces (half a liter) and carries a $200 fine for vendors that do not comply, met immediate backlash from beverage companies and others who argue it is government overreach, but was lauded by public health experts.

“It’s not saying ‘no’ to people. It’s saying, ‘Are you sure? Do you really want that?’” Thomas Farley, New York City’s health commissioner, said. “It’s sending people a message while giving people the freedom to drink as much as they want.”

Speaking at a conference in Washington aimed at reducing the consumption of sugary beverages, Farley said drink makers were following the same playbook as tobacco companies that push back against government action aimed at protecting consumers from harmful products.

However, Congressman Jose Serrano, New York Democrat, is critical of Bloomberg’s proposal telling me on Wednesday:

“I think the idea of banning may be going a little too far, but I think his proposals aren’t terrible and the idea of obesity and looking at that whole issue. What size? That could all be negotiated, but what he’s saying is not improper.”

Mr. Serrano then added, “It’s just that some people are getting nervous about too much restriction. A total ban doesn’t exist. He’s talking about the size, but I don’t know if they thought it out really well before they wrote it out.”

Congressman Charlie Rangel, New York Democrat, quickly noted on Wednesday night to me, “It makes a lot of sense health wise. I don’t know how it stands politically.”

The New York Daily News reported on Friday that Coca-Cola is claiming the so-called “obesity epidemic” began when consumption of sugary sodas began to decline.

“I just think that it’s an example of too much government intervention. I just think it’s almost disrespectful. It basically says that ‘People from New York, you can’t take care yourselves. Government has to do it for you,’” Rep. Michael Grimm explained to me on Tuesday night. “I don’ think that’s correct. I think the people of New York can take care of themselves,” he said.

“What about the gigantic soda bottles that they sell in the supermarket? Is that covered? We don’t know. What about the big containers of juice? They’ve got a lot of sugar. Are they covered?” asked Rep. Serrano.

The new rules could go into effect next March. Not only would reach sodas, sweetened ice tea and energy drinks but not affect milk based drinks or diet colas. The NY Daily News says the ban “would prohibit cups larger than 16 ounces of any liquid that contains more than 25 calories per 8 ounces.”

Serrano went further, saying: “The answer to the question is there a way of reducing how much sugar we take? That’s a good idea, but you just can’t make that statement and not have a plan. Right now people are saying it’s about those big Styrofoam cups. No. There are other things that are big with just as much sugar.”  

“We should encourage people to eat healthier and we should maybe be educating people to have a healthier lifestyle but mandating it by government is just antithetical to what this country stands for. I think it’s becoming a nanny state to do things like that,” said Mr. Grimm.

 

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