Lawsuit filed against NYC soda ban

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A group of business associations have filed a lawsuit claiming that the New York City Board of Health does not have the authority to ban the sale of large-sized sodas and other sugary drinks, said one of the plaintiffs, the National Restaurant Association.

“This lawsuit is about ensuring that the board of health respects the legislative process,” said Caroline Starke, spokesperson for the plaintiffs. “Despite strong and growing opposition from New Yorkers, the proposal was passed by sidestepping the city’s elected legislators.”

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, weight loss groups and other supporters pushed the controversial sugary drink ban as a way to fight the city’s raising obesity rate.

In September, the Board of Health passed the law, which will go into effect in March 2013. Businesses will have six months to comply and stop selling sugary beverages with more than 25 calories per eight ounces in sizes larger than 16 ounces.

The Barclays Center, the new Brooklyn arena and home to NBA team the Nets, has already adopted the ban and is the first major New York City venue to voluntarily comply with it.

But other local businesses, such as movie theaters, delis and restaurants, worry that the ban could hurt their bottom line.

“The ban is riddled with irrational exclusions, loopholes and random classifications that will seriously harm New York City businesses,” said Starke

Filed in New York State Court, the lawsuit says that the Health Department ignored council members’ objections, and “acted improperly by trying to implement the policy by executive fiat.”

Other plaintiffs include Teamsters Local 812, the Korean-American Grocers Association of New York, National Association of Theatre Owners of New York State, New York State Coalition of Hispanic Chambers of Commerce and the American Beverage Association.

Responding to the lawsuit, Bloomberg’s press secretary, Marc La Vorgna, called it “predictable, yet baseless,” and compared it to when the city was unsuccessfully sued for banning smoking in restaurants and bars.

For over 100 years, he said, the city’s Board of Health has been making major health decisions, from appointing milk inspectors to banning lead paint to posting calorie counts, which have benefited the health of New Yorkers.

“The Board of Health absolutely has the authority to regulate matters affecting health, and the obesity crisis killing nearly 6,000 New Yorkers a year – and impacting the lives of thousands more – unquestionably falls under its purview,” said La Vorgna.

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