Oral Presentation Australian & New Zealand Obesity Society 2014 Annual Scientific Meeting

Why New York City’s Attempt to Ban Soda Fizzled (#12)

Joel Berg 1
  1. New York City Coalition Against Hunger, New York, NY, United States

Seeking to combat obesity, then-New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg proposed two ways to limit the consumption of soda and certain other sugar-flavored beverages. First, he sought permission from the federal government to eliminate the ability of low-income participants in the federal Supplemental Nutrition Distance program (SNAP), formerly known as the Food Stamp Program, to use program benefits to obtain certain sugar-flavored beverages. I was the leading public opponent of this effort. The federal government rejected this request.
Second, he sought to use unilateral executive authority to limit the portion sizes of certain types of sugar flavored beverages sold by certain food service venues. This attempt was struck down by U.S. courts as an abuse of executive authority.
While both efforts were thwarted due to legal reasons, I also argue that they represented bad public policy and counter-productive public health measures. I argue that they were patronizing, hypocritical, and class-biased. Moreover, I argue that –- because they demonized one type of product rather than helping communities and families revamp their overall food environments and change their entire lifestyles—even if they had been implemented, they would have failed to reduce obesity. Instead, I argue for comprehensive, structural, measures to enable communities and families to exercise more and afford and consume a wide range of healthier foods.