The National Restaurant Association says a beverage ban approved by the NYC Board of Health unfairly targets restaurants, and is a misguided tactic to impact the obesity problem.

“There is no scientific support that this beverage ban’s size and caloric limit will impact obesity rates,” says Joy Dubost, Ph.D., R.D., Director of Nutrition and Healthy Living for the NRA. “It is also bewildering that the ban restricts restaurants from serving sweetened beverages in sizes larger than 16 ounces, but individuals can purchase any-sized beverage from a convenience or grocery store. This ban will punitively impact thousands of New York’s restaurant owners – the majority of which are small businesses.”

The ban, proposed by Mayor Mike Bloomberg as an amendment to the New York City Health Code, would prohibit the sale of sugar-sweetened beverages above 16 ounces in restaurants, delis, movie theaters, stadiums, food carts and other venues throughout New York City. The ban extends to any beverage – exclusive of milkshakes and alcoholic drinks – with more than 25 calories per 8 ounces, including some sodas, coffees, teas, smoothies and lemonades.

The NRA is a member of the New Yorkers for Beverage Choices coalition, which currently has more than 250,000 supporters who oppose the beverage ban and generated scores of critical comments about the proposal. Dubost, along with a multitude of others, testified at the Board’s July 24th hearing about the ban, and the Association has worked to educate policymakers and consumers on the ban’s extensive reach and harmful impact on New York City eateries.

“Apparently, even after the flood of comments and concerns raised by New Yorkers about this ban, the Board of Health chose to ignore all feedback and move forward without any significant changes to this flawed proposal,” says Dubost.

“The majority of consumers purchase their sugar-sweetened beverages from convenience and grocery stores according to data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), which are excluded from the Mayor’s proposal. Instead of demonizing sugar-sweetened beverages in restaurants, there should be a focus on policies and education that will truly influence behavioral change,” says Dubost.

CDC data also indicates that sugar-sweetened beverages account for between 5-8% of daily caloric intake, with 50% of the population not consuming any sugary drinks.

The ban will also cause operational challenges for restaurant operators. Under the ban, a restaurant may not offer self-service cups above 16 ounces even if the customer intends to fill it with a sugar-free drink. The only way an operator would be able to provide such a drink to customers is through the drive-thru window where self-serve is not available.

“This proposal creates an uneven playing field from a business perspective, and produces a false sense of accomplishment in the fight against obesity,” says Scott DeFife, Executive Vice President, Policy and Government Affairs for the National Restaurant Association. “The restaurant industry is committed to a proactive role in addressing obesity. We are disappointed in the Board’s vote today, and will continue to push for solutions that will truly impact consumer health in a positive way.”