NEW YORK -- As one New York institution – the Stock Exchange – prepared to celebrate National Doughnut Day on Friday with a mass giveaway of Krispy Kremes, another New York institution – Mayor Michael Bloomberg – told the city it’s time to fight fat by giving up huge, sugary drinks.
Not only is it time, it soon could be law, Bloomberg said Thursday as he announced a proposal to ban sugar-filled, calorie-laden drinks of more than 16 ounces from thousands of restaurants, delis, movie theaters, food carts, sports venues and other businesses that serve food and drink.
“The idea here is you tend to eat all the food in the container in front of you,” Bloomberg said in an interview on MSNBC, as he elaborated on an idea first disclosed in an interview with the New York Times on Wednesday and formally announced Thursday at City Hall. “If it’s a bigger container, you eat more. If somebody put a smaller glass or plate or bowl in front of you, you would eat less.”
Reaction was swift, from Coca-Cola to political action groups, who accused the health-conscious mayor of pushing his pro-health, anti-obesity campaign too far. Under Bloomberg, the city has banned smoking in bars, public parks and on beaches; ordered restaurants to stop using trans fats in their kitchens and baked goods; forced chain restaurants to list calorie counts on menus; and called on the food industry to slash sodium content in processed and restaurant food.
“New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s micromanaging Nanny State strikes again,” Americans For Limited Government President Bill Wilson said. Comparing Bloomberg’s proposal to President Obama’s healthcare plan, the group called the New York plan “another example of the government overstepping its authority.”
“Bloomberg has made New York City a rival to California as a lab rat of sorts for the latest Big Government intrusions that end up as federal government policies,” Wilson said.
The Coca-Cola Co. said the proposed ban, which has to be approved by the Bloomberg-appointed Board of Health, is unnecessary because calories already are listed on its products.
“New Yorkers expect and deserve better than this,” it said in a statement. “They can make their own choices about the beverages they purchase. We hope New Yorkers loudly voice their disapproval about this arbitrary mandate.”
Lost amid the ruckus was the New York Stock Exchange’s announcement of events marking National Doughnut Day and Krispy Krème’s 75th birthday on Friday, pointing up the challenge of combating obesity in a society where sweets are celebrated and embraced. Krispy Kreme President and CEO Jim Morgan will ring the closing bell Friday as traders are treated to thousands of free doughnuts.
Bloomberg acknowledged that as long as sweets and unhealthy food and drink are available, people are bound to consume them. But he said his proposal will make it harder for people to down massive amounts of sugary soda in one fell swoop and perhaps discourage them from going back for more.
The ban would not affect grocery stores, and diet drinks, fruit juices and most dairy-based drinks would be exempt. In addition, people in restaurants, cinemas and other food-service businesses who crave their super-sized sodas would be free to buy more than one.
“We’re not taking away anybody’s right to do things. We’re simply forcing you to understand you have to make the conscious decision to go from one cup to another cup,” said Bloomberg, expressing hope that this will encourage consumers to simply settle for less.
“All we’re trying to do is try to remind you that this is something that is detrimental to your health…. It’s not perfect, it’s not the only answer,” he said. “But we’ve got to do something. Sitting around doing nothing and watching our kids get fatter and fatter … that’s just not something we should do as a society.”