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Jul 24, 2012 8:32 PM by Lacey Steele

Medical professionals liken soda companies to Big Tobacco

Medical professionals who favor a proposed ban on large-sized sugary drinks likened soda companies to Big Tobacco at a public hearing Tuesday, saying the plan would protect the public, while opponents accused the New York City of playing Big Brother and wondered what tasty but unhealthy foods might be targeted next.

New York City's health board heard hours of testimony on a proposed rule that would limit soft-drink cup and bottle sizes at food service establishments to no larger than 16 ounces (473.17 milliliters).

Medical experts spared no rhetoric in hailing Mayor Michael Bloomberg's proposal as a way to protect the public from a soft-drink industry they said pushes carbonated calories on children and employs the same well-financed lobbying tactics as Big Tobacco.

One doctor said before the hearing that the calorie-packed beverages increase the risk of diabetes, and are responsible for a big share of the "massive suffering and premature death" linked to obesity.

Critics ridiculed the idea that city officials should regulate portion sizes.

City Councilman Daniel Halloran III called the proposal a "feel-good placebo" that would hurt profit margins at small businesses while failing to improve anyone's health.

He questioned whether a limit on the size of steak was around the corner.

Chris Gindlesperger, a spokesman for the American Beverage Association, scoffed at the notion that soda makers were similar to tobacco companies.

The proposal requires only the approval of the Board of Health - appointed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg - to take effect.

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