New York City’s ban on large-size soda drinks won’t take effect Tuesday after a state judge blocked the plan following a challenge from industry groups, including the American Beverage Association.
The city’s Board of Health in September approved Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s plan to limit the size of sugary soft drinks sold in restaurants, movie theaters, stadiums and arenas to no more than 16 ounces (473 milliliters) a cup. In October, groups representing beverage makers, restaurants, and theaters filed a petition in state court, seeking to block the measure. They called the ban “unprecedented interference” with consumer choice.
New York Supreme Court Justice Milton Tingling in Manhattan approved the group’s request, issuing a permanent injunction preventing the city from implementing the plan. The city said it will appeal the ruling, which also held the law violated the separation of powers, as the city council, and not the executive, should adapt such laws.
“The loopholes in this rule effectively defeat the stated purpose,” Tingling wrote. “It is arbitrary and capricious because it applies to some but not all food establishments in the city, it excludes other beverages that have significantly higher concentrations of sugar sweeteners and/or calories on specific grounds and the loopholes inherent in the rule, including but not limited to no limitations on refills, defeat and/or serve to gut the purpose of the rule.”
The groups said the decision by the board of health to approve the ban was overreaching and ignored the rights of New Yorkers to make their own choices. The plan is “grossly unfair” to small businesses such as hot dog vendors and pizzerias because convenience and grocery stores can still sell the larger sizes, lawyers for the groups told Tingling.
The city has argued that it’s trying to stem an epidemic of obesity driven by consumption of sugary beverages, which is rising because food establishments sell ever-larger portions. Under the city’s rule, people could still buy as many of the smaller drinks as they want and get refills.
“We are confident the Board of Health’s decision will ultimately be upheld,” Michael A. Cardozo, corporation counsel of New York City’s Law Department, said in a statement. “The Board of Health has the legal authority — and the responsibility — to tackle” the leading causes of a “growing obesity epidemic.” The mayor is the majority owner of Bloomberg LP, the parent of Bloomberg News.
Kent Landers, a spokesman for Coca-Cola Co. didn’t immediately reply to a call or email seeking comment.