Finally a victory for sanity! New York State Supreme Court Judge Milton A. Tingling blocked enforcement of the NYC ban on sweet drinks over 16 ounces the day before it was set to be implemented. Judge Tingling said the ban is arbitrary and capricious. In his ruling, he specifically mentioned that there are other drinks with higher sugar content than those included in the ban.
While NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg had the best of intentions (fighting obesity), the ban was poorly constructed. Anyone selling soft drinks in open containers could not serve more than 16 ounces per container. That meant that even when you took your family out for pizza, you could not buy a pitcher of soda to serve the entire family. On the other hand, there was no prohibition on refills or a person buying more than one 16 ounce drink for themselves (which Judge Tingling said serves to “defeat the stated purpose of the rule”).*
Shakes, fruit smoothies and coffee drinks are excluded from the ban if more than half milk, despite their sugar content. That creates a burden on restaurants with a large selection of drinks to keep track of which must be size-limited. Also arbitrary was the fact that only food service establishments inspected and graded by the health department were affected by the ban. Grocery and convenience store self-serve fountain drinks could continue to be purchased in cups larger than 16 ounces. People could still buy 20 ounce, 1 liter, 2 liter, etc. bottles at the grocery store, but could not have one of these bottles delivered to their house with a pizza.
Only limiting the size of some drinks in some instances does not do enough to prevent over-consumption of sugar (if one considers that a good goal).
This court ruling blocks the ban while a lawsuit by members of the beverage industry makes it way through the court system. Mayor Bloomberg continued to defend the ban today and said he would appeal the ruling.