NEW YORK (Reuters) - Coca-Cola Co and McDonald’s Corp fired back at New York City Mayor, Michael Bloomberg on Thursday for proposing a ban of large-sized soft drinks at restaurants and other food service outlets.
“New Yorkers expect and deserve better than this. They can make their own choices about the beverages they purchase,” Coca-Cola said in a statement.
The world’s largest soft-drink maker, which would also be disproportionately affected by such a ban, said it already includes calorie counts on the front of its bottles and cans in New York and that restaurants already post the calorie content of all their offerings and portion sizes, including soft drinks.
The statement from Coke comes a day after Mayor Bloomberg said he was proposing an amendment to the city’s health code to prohibit food service outlets from selling sugary soft drinks larger than 16 ounces.
The ban would apply to restaurants, mobile food carts, delicatessens and concessions at movie theaters, stadiums or arenas, where sales of fountain drinks are common. It would not apply to convenience stores, grocery stores or drug stores, which mostly sell beverages in bottles and cans.
Targeting cup sizes is the latest move in an ongoing effort to reduce Americans’ calories from sugary drinks. That is part of a broader push to fight obesity, which is a huge and growing burden to the nation’s healthcare system.
“Public health issues cannot be effectively addressed through a narrowly focused and misguided ban,” said a spokeswoman for McDonald’s USA. “This is a complex topic, and one that requires a more collaborative and comprehensive approach.”
For years, advocates and health experts have focused on additional taxes that they say would curb consumption and raise billions of dollars nationally.
Several studies have shown that higher taxes on sugary beverages does reduce consumption, helping to prevent diabetes and lowering health care spending. Critics say the taxes are an unfair way to close budget gaps and hurt consumers.
PepsiCo declined to comment, referring questions to the New York City Beverage Association.
Coke dominates the nation’s soda fountains with a 70 percent share of the market, according to Beverage Digest, followed by PepsiCo Inc with 19 percent and Dr Pepper Snapple Group Inc with 11 percent.
Fountain business accounts for about 24 percent of the 9.3 billion cases of soda sold a year, Beverage Digest said. The total market is worth about $75.7 billion.
Beverage Digest publisher John Sicher called the proposal misguided. He said its impact on the beverage industry will not be known for several years.
“I think that it would have some impact, but how much, we’re really not going to know until we can gauge the impact in New York and see whether it spreads.”
The proposal will be submitted to the New York City Board of Health on June 12. The board will go through a three-month comment period and vote on the proposal.
For some people in New York, the ban would be too much government interference.
“I don’t think it should be left up to him (Mayor Bloomberg) to decide what I drink,” said Alonzo Johnson, an 18-year-old environmental science student. “I think we should be deciding it.”
But as long as the ban only limits the size of the container, and not what is actually in it, some people think it is OK.
“I don’t necessarily think it is such a bad thing,” Sean Cashin, 47, told Reuters at a McDonald’s restaurant in Manhattan.
“(Soda) is my drug of choice and I am dealing with the consequences of it,” Cashin said, referring to a struggle with his weight.
Additional reporting by Dhanya Skariachan and Edith Honan in New York and Susan Heavey in Washington, D.C.; Editing by Maureen Bavdek and Sofina Mirza-Reid