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13-03-2013 | Article

Judge pulls rug out from under Mayor Bloomberg’s sugary drink limit

Abstract

NYC Community Health Survey

medwireNews: New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's push to regulate sugary drinks as part of an unprecedented campaign to control obesity suffered a last-minute set back when a State Supreme Court judge struck it down a day before it was to go into effect.

In explaining his ruling, Justice Milton Tingling described the limits as "arbitrary and capricious," with rules - and exemptions - that would be difficult to enforce.

The mayor announced he would appeal based on the judge's narrow definition of the authority that the city's board of health has to impose such limits.

"When our Administration implemented calorie counts and worked to eliminate trans-fats in restaurants, we were taken to court," Mayor Bloomberg said in a press release. "But today, both reforms are recognized as models. Already our proposal to limit the size of sugary beverages has changed the national conversation around obesity and we are confident that yesterday's court decision will be reversed on appeal."

The ban would apply to the serving of sugary drinks that are larger than 16 oz at restaurants and delis but not at convenience stores due to the latter falling under state jurisdiction.

Obesity, according to Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services, Linda I Gibbs, is currently killing 5,000 New Yorkers per year - and 100,000 people across the USA.

"Nearly 60 percent of adult New Yorkers and nearly 40 percent of our kids are overweight or obese," Gibbs said. "Each faces a higher risk of disease and tragically a greater risk of early death. We know that sugary drinks are the single largest contributor to the obesity crisis - the City's portion cap regulation is a bold and meaningful intervention to confront an intractable epidemic."

To back up Gibbs's numbers, the Bloomberg office released new data from the New York City Community Health Survey that correlates consuming sugary drinks with obesity rates based on neighborhood.

According to 9,000 responses, the study found that nine out of 10 neighborhoods that have the city's highest obesity rates were also the largest consumers of sugary drinks, which included sugar sweetened soda, iced tea, sports drinks and fruit punch. The three least obese neighborhoods were the largest abstainers of sugary drinks.

"As a health epidemic, obesity is preventable and reducing the amount of sugary beverages people consume is a key way to turn this tide," Gibbs said.

By Peter Sergo, medwireNews Reporter