Fresh & Local
New York’s Sugary Drink Limit
Column #62, Published Nov 23rd, 2012

Last week, I wrote about the Los Angeles City Council’s resolution urging all residents to observe “Meatless Mondays” from now on.

I also wrote that anyone who thinks this resolution is benign needs to remember that this same city council in 2011 effectively banned new fast-food restaurants in South Los Angeles. As Rick Moran wrote in American Thinker, “[This Meatless Monday resolution] doesn't have the force of law - yet. But wait a few years - they'll get there . . .”

What makes the fast-food restaurant ban so troubling is that there is no chance that it will improve anyone’s health.

First, there are already over 1,000 fast-food restaurants in South Los Angeles.

Second, the fast-food restaurant ban was not a complete ban. Local mom-and-pop restaurants are exempt, as are fast-food restaurants in shopping centers. Figure out the logic of that one. The ban also does not cover “casual” restaurants. So what exactly is the difference between casual-food and fast-food?

Third, a RAND Corporation study concluded that junk food sold from gas station quick-marts and convenience stores was a bigger issue than fast-food, and quick-marts and convenience stores are not covered by the ban.

Roland Sturm, a co-author of the RAND study, said “A lot of this is driven by sound bites overlooking what is actually going to have an impact.” In other words, the ban was really nothing more than a political photo-op, and no one believes it will actually improve anyone’s health.

The big beneficiaries of the ban on new fast-food restaurants are the owners of existing fast-food restaurants. Those existing restaurants are now much more valuable.

Now consider New York City. In September, New York City's Board of Health passed Mayor Bloomberg's ban of super-sized, sugary drinks at restaurants and concession stands. The ban will place a limit of 16-ounces on cups and bottles of sugar-containing sodas and other non-diet sweetened beverages beginning in March 2013.

The ban will apply not only to restaurants and delis, but also theaters, office cafeterias and most other places that fall under regulation by the Board of Health.

Here is the first problem: People who buy sugary drinks will still be able to buy additional 16-ounce beverages. It will now just cost more and require additional containers in the trash.

And once again, there are exemptions. Sugary drinks sold at supermarkets and most convenience stores are exempt. How do convenience stores manage to keep getting themselves exempt? Also exempt are alcoholic beverages, and dairy-based beverages like milk shakes.

The exemption for alcoholic beverages is significant because a study just released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that U.S. adults drink about as many calories from alcohol as they do from sugary drinks. An article on the CBS News web site asks, “Should New York officials now start cracking down on tall-boy beers and monster margaritas?”

None of these bans or resolutions is going to improve anyone’s health. They are really only about political photo-ops and sound-bites at the expense of our freedoms.

There is a great line in the movie “The Outlaw Josey Wales.” A Union cavalry detachment chases Josey Wales into Texas. Their commander, Captain Terrell, reasons that as long as they are in Texas, there are other scofflaws that need rounding-up. Fletcher protests that their agreement was that their mission ends once they catch Josey Wales.

Captain Terrell replies, “Oh, no! Doin’ good ain’t got no end!”

Unfortunately, Captain Terrell is probably right.


Bryant Osborn and his wife Terry own Corvallis Farms in Culpeper County. His column on fresh and locally grown food runs every Friday. He can be reached at bryant@corvallisfarms.com