In January, New York City embarked on an anti-soda marketing campaign, with subway ads showing obese people with amputations next to diagrams displaying growing soda sizes.
The American Beverage Association argues that drinks groups are unfairly targeted, claiming that carbonated soft drink consumption has been falling while obesity is on the rise. Meanwhile, the lobbying group contends that candy and pizza companies should face the same level of scrutiny.
The proposal will be submitted to the New York City board of health on June 12, and it will vote on the amendment after a three-month comment period. An anti-obesity initiative launched by Michael Bloomberg, New York’s Mayor, to ban the sale of “supersized” sweetened drinks in restaurants, cinemas and stadiums has attracted fierce criticism from the U.S. beverage industry but won praise from public health experts, who are urging others to adopt the model.
Mr. Bloomberg’s plan would stop food service establishments from selling sugary drinks in portions bigger than 16 ounces (475 ml). Diet sodas or drinks containing milk would be exempt, and restaurants could still offer free refills.
New York’s department of health said large portion sizes were contributing to the widening obesity epidemic, pointing to data that show more than half of adult New Yorkers are overweight or obese. The administration said people were consuming bigger soda portions with more “empty” calories but not feeling fuller or less thirsty.
However, Stefan Friedman, spokesman for the New York City Beverage Association, said: “The city is not going to address the obesity issue by attacking soda because soda is not driving the obesity rates.”
Mr. Bloomberg’s success at driving public health initiatives – including banning indoor smoking and enforcing calorie labelling at restaurants – has prompted accusations of nanny state-ism. Yet his administration’s policies have been applauded by public health officials and emulated around the world – a fact not lost on the drinks industry.
Coca-Cola Co. , the world’s largest soft drink maker by revenue, said in a statement: “New Yorkers expect and deserve better than this. They can make their own choices about the beverages they purchase.”
PepsiCo Inc. , the food and beverage group, had no comment on the Bloomberg proposal. However, in an interview last month Derek Yach, PepsiCo’s head of global health policy, acknowledged the beverage industry should do more to market moderation. “I actually think there are more innovative ways we could help people on the beverage side,” Mr. Yach said. “Sometimes it will mean limiting the actual portion size of a can.”
The latest proposal came after the beverage industry successfully beat an earlier attempt by Mr. Bloomberg to implement a tax on soda.
Public health experts praised the latest plan and said the ban could be replicated elsewhere.
“This addresses the single most important issue in development of obesity, which is overconsumption of calories,” said Marion Nestle, a public health and nutrition professor at New York University. “I do think it will become a model, if they can get away with it.”
Obesity has become an increasing concern globally. The World Health Organization estimates that 500 million people, or 12 per cent of the world’s population is obese.
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