Beverage trade group takes lead on soda ban response

NEW YORK: Soft-drink giants Coca-Cola and PepsiCo have handed the reins over to the American Beverage Association to respond to a proposed New York City ban on sugary drinks larger than 16 ounces.

NEW YORK: Soft-drink giants Coca-Cola and PepsiCo have handed the reins over to the American Beverage Association to respond to a proposed New York City ban on sugary drinks larger than 16 ounces.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's administration announced the proposal on Wednesday as part of his anti-obesity platform. The measure would stop the sale of large, sugary beverages at restaurants, food carts, movie theaters, and delis. Diet drinks that have 25 or fewer calories per eight ounces, fruit juices, dairy drinks, and alcoholic beverages would not be affected by the ban.

PepsiCo representatives deferred all comment to the ABA, while Coca-Cola issued a press statement and told PRWeek that the company is “closely coordinating” with the industry group.

Coca-Cola's comment, which can be found on its company website, said: “The people of New York City are much smarter than the New York City Health Department believes. We are transparent with our consumers. They can see exactly how many calories are in every beverage we serve.”

The statement goes on to say that all Coca-Cola beverages are labeled with calorie counts, as are the menus of New York City restaurants, and that “New Yorkers expect and deserve better than this.”

Representatives at the American Beverage Association were not immediately available for comment, but the organization has a blog opposing the ban on its homepage with the headline "Here They Go Again: Nanny Bloomberg's Obsession with Soda.”

Stefan Friedman, spokesman for the New York City Beverage Association, responded to the press via email, saying the measure won't actually affect obesity.

“The city is not going to address the obesity issue by attacking soda because soda is not driving the obesity rates,” he said. “In fact, as obesity continues to rise, [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] data shows that calories from sugar-sweetened beverages are a small and declining part of the American diet."

Some of the beverages at Starbucks, which is not a member of the ABA, would also be impacted by the potential ban.

“We have developed an extensive portfolio of products that includes beverages without sugar and customization options with sugar-free syrups, and we are constantly evolving our product line to meet the needs of our customers and provide a wider range of choices,” the company said in a statement. “As Starbucks offers more than 170,000 ways to customize your beverage, we believe many of our beverages would fall outside of the proposed ban.”

NYC.gov and the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene website both do not have releases or information about the possible beverage ban. Yet the “NYC Mayor's Office” Twitter account has been open about the anti-obesity initiative, tweeting statements like “Nearly 40% of NYC's public school students in grades K-8 are overweight or obese,” along with a link to a PDF of the New York City Obesity Task Force plan.

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