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Soda Ban Challenged in Court

Complaint says city health panel does not have authority to limit sales of sugary drinks.

Soda Ban Challenged in Court

Business groups filed suit against the city Friday to block a ban on the sale of large sizes of sugary drinks at some stores, restaurants and movie theaters.

The complaint, filed by industry trade groups, small merchant associations and worker unions, claims that the city Department of Health overstepped its authority when it enacted the beverage regulations in September.

"The Board of Health’s decision nonetheless to ban certain sizes of sweetened beverages in certain outlets, imposed by executive fiat, usurps the role of the City Council, violating core principles of democratic government and ignoring the rights of the people of New York City to make their own choices," the suit reads.

A spokesman for Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who proposed the ban as part of the city's continuing efforts to combat obesity, said the health panel had the power to enact the regulations.

But critics, including the Korean-American Grocers Association and the American Beverage Association, said DOH had gone well outside its traditional administrative function of enforcing, reviewing, supervising and promoting existing laws.

Support for the regulations has been weak in the City Council, with several legislators — including Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz, D-Forest Hills — coming out strongly against the ban.

"While obesity is a serious epidemic in NYC, the amount of soda or the size we consume is a choice that should be left for the individual to decide using their own discretion," Koslowitz said when the ban passed last month. "This ban is a perfect example of too much government imposition into our personal lives.” 

Starting March 12, sales of sugary beverages larger than 16 ounces will be banned at restaurants, mobile food carts, delis and concessions at movie theaters, stadiums or arenas.

The city will begin fining sellers $200 for violating the ban in mid-June 2013.

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