By macleans.ca - Thursday, March 14, 2013 - 0 Comments
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s supersized soft drink ban is struck down in court. Big Gulp lovers rejoice.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s world-famous ban on supersized soft drinks has met a bad end in the state’s Supreme Court. Justice Milton Tingling reviewed the history of municipal government in New York, combed over the scientific arguments of Bloomberg’s health department and the businesses and workers opposing the ban, and dealt the diminutive mayor a knockout, striking down his 16-ounce limit on sugary drinks as “arbitrary and capricious.”
The drink-size law had attracted world attention as a new and vicious salient in the public health war on sugar. Bloomberg’s ambitious but loophole-ridden soda-pop law is founded on strong evidence that obese citizens consume a greater volume of sugary drinks. But there is not much indication that those drinks in particular are to blame for widespread obesity, nor that limiting cup sizes would help.
Moreover, the new rules were to apply only to city-regulated food vendors, chiefly restaurants and food carts. Even though Bloomberg’s initative was widely described as a “Big Gulp ban,” convenience stores like 7-Eleven could not be covered, nor could groceries, bodegas, or vending machines. And ultra-sugary fruit smoothies and fat-rich milkshakes were explicitly exempted. This had petitioners ranging from the New York Korean-American Grocers Association to the Teamsters union complaining to the state court that the drink limits were irrational and economically unfair. Even some Democrats and leftists who are otherwise fans of fairly interventionist government felt Bloomberg was making himself look vaguely silly, and of course libertarians applied the truncheon unceasingly to Bloomberg, who, as Luiza Ch. Savage points out in her profile, has set his sights on a much broader scale.
By The Associated Press - Tuesday, March 12, 2013 at 10:07 PM - 0 Comments
NEW YORK, N.Y. – Despite Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s bullishness, political realities and legal questions…
NEW YORK, N.Y. – Despite Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s bullishness, political realities and legal questions make for an uncertain future for one of the premier pieces of his legacy: a ban on supersized sugary drinks that was struck down by a judge.
The city lost no time Tuesday getting started on the next round of the fight, with Bloomberg calling the strongly worded court ruling a “temporary setback” and emphasizing that the city is confident about winning an appeal. He predicted that in the meantime, the novel regulation would become a bellwether in the national fight against obesity.
“I don’t think there’s any doubt that momentum is moving in our direction,” he said after convening a thicket of news cameras at a Manhattan diner that is voluntarily complying with the stricken-down rule.
While the city has ultimately prevailed in some similar cases, legal experts say it’s unclear how judges will view whether health regulators overshot their authority in this one. Moreover, the appeal could linger beyond Bloomberg’s term when it ends this year, and several of his would-be successors don’t appear to have his appetite for pursuing it.
State Supreme Court Justice Milton Tingling’s decision, issued Monday, says that the soda rule has so many exemptions that it’s illegally arbitrary and that the Bloomberg-appointed Board of Health trod on the City Council’s turf to impose it.
“This is a serious challenge to the city,” particularly for saying the health board violated the separation-of-powers principle, said James Fanto, a Brooklyn Law School professor who specializes in business law and regulation.
The city filed a formal notice Tuesday of plans to appeal. The American Beverage Association and other opponents of the rule said they felt the judge’s decision was strong and were confident in it.
The city’s appeal will likely argue that the judge took too narrow a view of the 147-year-old health board’s powers. Officials have noted that other groundbreaking health initiatives on Bloomberg’s watch have survived court challenges: a 2006 rule requiring some restaurants to post calorie counts, for instance, was struck down, revised, challenged again and upheld.
The city also is stressing what it sees as the stakes: a city population in which 60 per cent of adults and 40 per cent of children are obese, $4 billion a year in obesity-related medical spending in the city alone, and national and local studies linking sugary drinks to weight gain.
Government actions generally enjoy some leeway in courts in light of the separation of powers. But judges tend to afford less deference to the decisions of executive agencies than to the majoritarian work of legislatures — in this scenario, the City Council, said Steven Goldberg, a Pace Law School professor and former dean.
Bloomberg said Tuesday he has no plans to try to get the council to pass the soda rule, which bars eateries as disparate as corner delis and arena concessions from selling non-diet soda, sweetened juice and some other sugary drinks in portions bigger than 16 ounces. The city believes in the health board’s authority over the issue and wants a higher court to affirm it, he said.
The appeal could easily take a year or more, potentially leaving the next mayor with a decision about whether to keep pressing it.
Several Republican and Democratic contenders have criticized the ban. “Thank goodness the court intervened,” cheered one, Democrat John Liu, now the city comptroller.
City Council Speaker and frequent Bloomberg ally Christine Quinn, so far the Democratic front-runner in the heavily Democratic city, told CNN host Piers Morgan on Monday that the big-soda ban “isn’t something I support.” But she said Tuesday that officials should “let this make its way through the court, and we’ll see where we end up.”
Meanwhile, one of her Democratic rivals, city Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, was by Bloomberg’s side applauding the measure.
“This is a crisis that must be addressed, he said, and “the mayor is doing that.”
For a mayor who has made unconventional public health initiatives a key part of his agenda, Monday’s court decision is at least a distracting roadblock.
The soda rule revived complaints that he’s turning a tough town into a “nanny state.” The New York Post has pictured him as “Mayor Poppins” alongside stories about it.
And the court ruling could fuel longtime perceptions of him as high-handed and sometimes deaf to the democratic process, a criticism that hit a fever pitch when he persuaded the City Council to extend term limits in 2008 so he could run again after voters had twice approved the previous limit.
Tingling, the trial-level court judge, called the sugary drinks regulation “arbitrary and capricious,” language that comes from a legal standard but could strike non-lawyers as an echo of the “imperial mayor” his critics sometimes deride.
Fairly or not, the ruling “makes it easier to paint him as someone who’s kind of overbearing and autocratic,” said Queens College political science professor Michael Krasner.
New Yorkers are divided on the issue, with 51 per cent against it and 46 per cent supporting it in a recent Quinnipiac University poll.
For his part, Bloomberg shrugs off questions about whether the soda contretemps has sapped his political capital, saying he’s “trying to do what’s right” and thinks the public ultimately will agree with him. He foresees smaller sodas becoming as normal as smoke-free bars, another change that was controversial when his administration made it in 2002.
“The mayor’s right: Leadership requires sticking your neck out,” says Douglas Muzzio a Baruch College political science professor who specializes in city politics.
As for whether the public will reward him for it, “This may not be one of those cases, or it may be.”
By Mika Rekai - Thursday, December 6, 2012 at 1:20 PM - 0 Comments
From syrup to slurpees, food and drink made their mark in 2012
A mite shy
New Zealanders went into deep withdrawal after the nation’s Marmite producer, Sanitarium, suspended production at their Christchurch plant in the wake of an earthquake that damaged the factory in 2011. Repairs were supposed to be finished by summer, then October, but the shelves are still empty of the popular yeast-based spread. Sanitarium officials warned New Zealanders to use it sparingly, but 500-g jars were being hoarded and sold for more than $50 online. While some Kiwis have withstood the shortage bravely, loyalties were sorely tested. In the spring, supermarkets reported that sales of Australian rival Vegemite rose significantly.
It was a heist made for headlines. In late August, thieves broke into a Quebec warehouse and stole barrels full of Canada’s original sweetener, part of a 23,500-barrel reserve of maple syrup. The Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers keeps the stockpile against shortages. Representing more than one-tenth of Quebec’s 2012 harvest, the syrup was said to be worth more than $30 million. In October, the RCMP tracked down the stolen syrup in New Brunswick, extricating maple-syrup producers from a sticky mess.
Joke’s on him
While filming an episode of The Mind of a Chef in Montreal, U.S. comedian Aziz Ansari was mistaken for local comic Sugar Sammy at Wilensky’s sandwich shop. Ansari, who accompanied New York chef David Chang and two local chefs to the shop for one of its famous fried bologna and salami sandwiches, impersonated the Canadian comedian for as long as he could. When someone revealed his name, the Parks and Recreation star said, “Different Indian comedian.” Sugar Sammy is a broad-shouldered, athletic and fashionable comic best known for his bilingual stage shows and reputation as a hard partier. Aziz Ansari is a short, slight comedian with a beard and moustache. After leaving, Ansari asked the chefs if they ever get mistaken for other chefs, then pointed to Chang, who is Chinese-American, and said with a grin, “Morimoto?”
This year, 10 Indian states banned the sale of gutka, a popular chewing tobacco made of crushed betel nut, nicotine, spices and chemical additives, in an effort to curb oral cancers, which make up almost a third of all cancer diagnoses in India. There are an estimated 65 million gutka users in the country, and the tobacco is popular as a cheap pick-me-up for everyone from rickshaw drivers to university students. With 80,000 new cases of oral cancer a year, the health ministry says the treatment of tobacco-related diseases costs more than $5 billion annually, almost five times more than the government earns from taxing gutka. The ban came as a shock to the manufacturers, who have banded together to challenge the legislation in court.
Classy with a C
At home, the diet-busting cinnamon buns sold at Cinnabon are found at subway stations and busy malls, where the irresistible smell of the pastry baking tempts passersby. This year it became the first U.S. franchise to open in Libya after the fall of Moammar Gadhafi. The Tripoli location, which made its debut in August to a flurry of excitement on Libyan social media, is the largest Cinnabon in the world. While the original recipe remains untouched, the restaurant is modelled after a European-style café, offering a cosmopolitan array of Italian coffees and pastries. A three-storey affair in a fashionable neighbourhood, it offers private dining rooms for meetings, dates and special occasions, as well as a playroom for children. A trip to Cinnabon here is a status symbol for the city’s wealthiest residents.
XL not sold here
The Big Apple is no friend to the Big Gulp. In September, the New York City health department banned the sale of sugared beverages larger than 16 oz. at restaurants, food carts, sports arenas and movie theatres to curb obesity. The ban is another bold step from Mayor Michael Bloomberg to improve the health of New Yorkers, but the rest of the United States is unlikely to follow his lead; in November citizens of two California cities rejected a fat tax on pop. New Yorkers thirsting for supersized pop can still get their fix. Fruit juices that are more than 70 per cent juice, diet pop and alcoholic beverages are exempt, as is 7-Eleven’s infamous Slurpees, because they are sold in a convenience store.
XL not sold here either
This September, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency suspended operations at an XL Foods plant in Brooks, Alta., after E. coli was detected in meat products. Then CFIA documents showed the bacteria was discovered two weeks before the suspension, during which time uninformed retailers continued to sell XL meat to Canadian and American customers; 18 people got sick, but there have been no known fatalities. The Alberta beef industry took a licking, but the processing plant was running again in October with more inspectors and stricter testing in place.
By Kate Lunau - Wednesday, November 14, 2012 at 8:30 AM - 0 Comments
How to survive the restaurant meal’s health horrors: slow down
At a Hardee’s restaurant in Champaign, Ill., two food psychologists recently did some redecorating. Half the seating area was left as-is—the strong lights, bright colours and hard metal chairs typical of fast-food places—while the other half was transformed with white tablecloths, plants and paintings. “We softened the surfaces to make it quieter, put in nice lights, played some Miles Davis,” says Brian Wansink, director of Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab, author of Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think.
As the lunch rush arrived, customers were randomly selected to eat in the regular restaurant or on the made-over side. Wansink and collaborator Koert van Ittersum of the Georgia Institute of Technology thought people on the fine-dining side would linger at their tables and order more food. But even though those customers spent longer in the restaurant, they consumed less food. And they rated what they ate as more enjoyable.
Restaurants inﬂuence us in all sorts of ways—everything from lighting and music to words on the menu can cue us to indulge. The trouble is, for most of us, restaurants are no longer for special occasions; they’re an everyday thing. A new study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine (AJPM) says Americans spend nearly half their food budget on, and consume about one-third of their daily calories from, food outside the home. Canadians do better; according to Statistics Canada figures published in April, households spent an average of $7,443 on food in 2010, $2,066 of that in restaurants. (In 1997, we spent an average of $5,608, $1,152 of it in restaurants.) All that eating out isn’t very healthy, as the new Symptom Profiler quality-of-life survey results show: the more respondents ate out, the more negative health symptoms they reported. Continue…
By Emma Teitel - Thursday, November 8, 2012 at 6:40 AM - 0 Comments
Could a junk food tax fight back the bulge?
Every once in a while an issue hits the headlines that isn’t an issue at all, but a combination of a someone’s pet peeve and a slow news month: the rising tide of misandry (the war on men), reverse discrimination (the war on whites), draconian political correctness (the war on everything). And now, the ultimate non-issue issue: the war on fast food—or the “WAR ON FOOD FREEDOM” as Sun TV likes to call it. Even though the Canadian Medical Association Journal says “obesity is expected to surpass smoking as the leading cause of preventable mortality” in Canada, and roughly one-quarter of Americans eat fast food every day, our right to gluttony is apparently on the line. Big Brother is watching what you eat. In September, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg introduced the “Big Gulp” ban, which outlawed the sale of sugary drinks larger than 16 oz. everywhere except supermarkets and grocery stores (the ban is currently being contested in court by both the American Beverage Association and National Restaurant Association). Meanwhile in Ontario, student leaders are boycotting the fast food joints neighbouring their high schools; it appears the province’s year-old, health-food-only-cafeteria policy has teenagers running for the nearest McDonald’s. Students involved in the “Stick it to Fast Food” campaign are urging students to bring their own lunches through November, in the hope that their cafeterias will one day adopt lunchtime fare that is both nutritious and tasty. Continue…