Court: Limit on drink size unconstitutional
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg looks at a 64-ounce cup, as Lucky’s Cafe owner Greg Anagnostopoulos, stands behind him. An appeals court ruled Tuesday that New York City’s Board of Health exceeded its legal authority and acted unconstitutionally when it tried to put a size limit on soft drinks served in city restaurants.
New York City’s crackdown on big, sugary sodas is staying on ice.
A midlevel state appeals court ruled Tuesday that the city’s Board of Health exceeded its legal authority when it voted last year to put a 16-ounce size limit on high-calorie soft drinks served in restaurants, theaters, stadiums, sidewalk food carts and many other places.
In a unanimous opinion, a four-judge panel of the state Supreme Court Appellate Division said that though the board has the power to ban “inherently harmful” foodstuffs from being served to the public, sweetened beverages don’t fall into that category. Soda consumption is not necessarily harmful when done in moderation, the court wrote, and therefore “cannot be classified as a health hazard per se.”
The panel didn’t address whether the size limit would have infringed on personal liberties, but said that in adopting it, the health board improperly assumed broad lawmaking powers given only to legislative bodies, such as the city council.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the driving force behind the regulation, promised a quick appeal.
“Today’s decision is a temporary setback, and we plan to appeal this decision as we continue the fight against the obesity epidemic,” he said in a statement.
The American Beverage Association, which had been among the groups challenging the rule, applauded the ruling, which was the second to find that the Board of Health had overstepped its authority. A similar lower court ruling in March kept the regulation from taking effect.
“With this ruling behind us, we look forward to collaborating with city leaders on solutions that will have a meaningful and lasting impact on the people of New York City,” said Beverage Association spokesman Christopher Gindlesperger.