New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is taking his unhealthy obsession with soft drinks to a new level, this time proposing to ban sugar-sweetened beverages larger than 16 ounces from city restaurants, movie theaters, stadiums and food trucks. This is not the first time the New York City Health Department, under the direction of Mayor Bloomberg, has rallied against the consumption of our industry’s products as an alleged means to reduce obesity. And it’s not the first time they have misled the public to make their case.
In January, the Health Department launched an ad campaign intending to draw a direct link between soda consumption and diabetes, and in their ad they showed an overweight man with an amputated leg. According to the New York Times in stories here and here, this man is still very much in possession of his legs. And in 2009, e-mails obtained by the New York Times showed that the Health Department knew that an ad campaign they were running – again to show a direct link between sugar consumption and obesity – was based on faulty science. The Health Department has shown time and again that they are not above a “What can we get away with?” strategy, and this new proposal is simply another attempt to mislead the public in an effort to push a very personal agenda.
Don’t get us wrong, reducing obesity is an admirable goal – and one our industry supports. In fact, the beverage industry has taken and continues to take bold action to help address the complex issue of obesity. America’s beverage companies are delivering more choices, a greater variety of portion sizes and clear calorie labels on every bottle, can and pack we produce. We understand the need for a comprehensive solution and we are doing our part. However, New York City is not going to address the obesity issue by attacking soda because soda is not driving the obesity rates. According to government data, sugar-sweetened beverages account for only 7 percent of calories in the average American’s diet. So while obesity rates continue to climb, beverage calories continue to decline.
It’s time for Mayor Bloomberg and New York’s health professionals to get their facts straight and seek solutions that will actually help curb obesity. These zealous proposals just distract from the hard work that needs to be done on this front.