Yesterday, I made the trip down to the public hearing on sugar-sweetened beverages held at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. I’d come to see Baylen Linnekin of Keep Food Legal kick-some, but the remainder of the show was surprisingly engaging and lively.
The flacks from the food and beverage industry, disappointingly, made a hash of the inherently strong argument for personal choice. They did, however, give some compelling data on the impact the portion limitation would have on their 8,000+ constituency of industry employees.
Advocating for the portion size limitation were a Pleiades Cluster of public health eggheads from Harvard, Yale, AMA, etc… Take your pick. Despite their credentials, only one among them was shrewd enough to provide data for the causative relationship between soda consumption and obesity, by citing the (high) proportion of calories in the typical diet of an obese person which derive from sugar-sweetened beverages. The rest just relied on correlative data only – soda is bad, we drink a lot of it, must be why everyone is obese.
Almost every other advocate of the portion size limitation rule admitted that the City could effectively fight the obesity epidemic in a variety of other ways. Some proffered that the city could also build better parks and playgrounds, subsidize gym memberships, or teach nutrition in public schools.
So why limit personal choice when so many other options abound? Parks and education programs cost money. An executive fiat on beverage size costs the City nothing. I walk away with the impression that the portion limitation shifts the economic burden for solving a public health crisis away from the City and onto the restaurant and bottling industry. I’m not too crazy about that idea, even if it does work.
On my way home, with my burrito I ordered the 32 oz. Coke. For spite.