New York’s proposed beverage ban is a misguided and ineffective tactic against obesity and unfairly targets the restaurant industry, a leading job creator in New York City and nationwide, the National Restaurant Association (NRA) told the New York Department of Health in a public hearing on the proposal July 25.

“There is no scientific evidence to demonstrate that restricting the size of beverage containers for sugary drinks or setting a caloric limit of greater than 50 calories per 16 ounces in restaurants will have any impact on obesity,” said Joy Dubost, PhD, RD, the NRA’s director of Nutrition and Healthy Living who testified at the hearing. “CDC data indicates the majority of people purchase their sugary drinks from convenience and grocery stores, which are excluded from the Mayor’s proposal. Instead of demonizing sugar-sweetened beverages in restaurants and foodservice establishments in an attempt to reverse the obesity epidemic, we collectively must focus on policies and practices where there is evidence to indicate there will be a consumer behavioral change which leads to positive health outcomes.”

Data from the United States Department of Health’s Center for Disease Control (CDC) indicates that sugar-sweetened beverages account for between 5-8 percent of daily caloric intake with 50 percent of the population not consuming any sugary drinks. CDC data also indicates that most of the sugar-sweetened beverages consumed away from home are not obtained in restaurants, but rather from stores.

“This proposal misplaces responsibility on some small business operators, impedes commerce, creates an uneven playing field from a business perspective, and produces a false sense of accomplishment in the fight against obesity,” said Scott DeFife, executive vice president, Policy and Government Affairs for the NRA. “The restaurant industry is committed to its proactive role in addressing obesity, and we urge public health officials in New York to put all of their energies into public education about a balanced lifestyle including a proper diet and exercise rather than attempting to regulate consumption of a completely legal and safe product enjoyed universally at restaurants.”

Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s proposed Amendment of Article 81 of the New York City Health Code would prohibit the sale of sugar-sweetened beverages above 16 ounces in restaurants, delis, movie theaters, stadiums, food carts and other venues throughout the New York City area. The ban extends to any beverage – exclusive of milkshakes and alcoholic drinks – with more than 25 calories per 8 ounces, including some sodas, coffees, teas, smoothies and lemonades.

As a member of the New Yorkers for Beverage Choices coalition, the NRA has worked to educate policymakers and consumers on the ban’s extensive reach and harmful impact on New York City eateries. The board of health’s vote on the proposal is scheduled for September 13.

The NRA’s complete written testimony from the hearing can be found here.

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