Freedom to Drink Big Sodas Upheld Again in NYC

Big sodas and the freedom to buy them in New York City won another day in court Tuesday. A panel of four judges from the state’s Appellate Division ruled unanimously that the city’s Board of Health exceeded its authority in banning the sale of sugary drinks larger than 16 ounces. The judges said that the Board had the authority to ban “inherently harmful” foods, but that sugary drinks didn’t fit that definition and thus “cannot be classified as a health hazard per se.”

Mayor Michael Bloomberg was undaunted, saying, “Today’s decision is a temporary setback, and we plan to appeal this decision as we continue the fight against the obesity epidemic.”

The judges didn’t actually rule on the question of personal freedom, but any win was good enough for freedom’s defenders at the American Beverage Association. Spokesman Christopher Gindlesperger said, “With this ruling behind us, we look forward to collaborating with city leaders on solutions that will have a meaningful and lasting impact on the people of New York City.”

Don’t count on it. A recent analysis of food industry self-regulation published in Obesity Reviews concludes that voluntary efforts are unlikely to curb the influence of unhealthy food marketing practices. Industry analyses consistently find no problems, while peer-reviewed studies reach the opposite conclusion, according to the authors of this analysis.

We need a safe and well-regulated marketplace for food. But defining it seems likely to be a Gordian Knot.

Click here to read more from the Associated Press, click here to read a commentary from Above the Law, and click here to read the analysis in Obesity Reviews.

Drink Double Cola, photograph © Brent Moore / flickr

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