Foodservice Equipment Reports

Pending Bans Dept: Soft Drinks And Polystyrene

Big Sodas In New York

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has proposed a ban on the sale of large soft drinks and other sugary drinks in restaurants, delis and movie theaters with the goal of helping combat obesity. Under his plan, sugary drinks would be limited to 16 fluid ounces, or about half a liter; refills would be allowed.

The first-in-the-nation ban on large soft drinks would not apply to diet sodas, fruit juices and dairy-based drinks, nor to drinks sold in grocery stores or convenience stores. If approved by the Board of Health, whose members all are appointed by the Mayor, the proposed ban would most likely take effect by early next year.

Not surprisingly, the foodservice industry—and the larger business community—had a hostile reaction to the regulatory effort, which Bloomberg is promoting as part of a larger war on obesity. More than half of New Yorkers are obese or overweight, according to Dr. Thomas Farley, the city’s health commissioner.

In addition to the freedom of choice issues the proposed ban raises, this regulatory effort would have major bottom-line impacts for operators, who offset the cost of other menu items with fountain drinks, which can yield a gross margin of 80%. Banning large soft drinks would likely bring about price increases on other menu items in order to recoup the lost soft-drink profits.

The city's previous initiatives to prohibit smoking and trans fats in restaurants eventually became commonplace regulations nationwide. Bloomberg also successfully championed  a requirement for health inspection grades to be posted in restaurant windows.

Polystyrene Foam In San Jose

A 10-year deadline to reduce litter by 100% is pushing another California city to consider a ban on expanded polystyrene foam containers. The San Jose City Council met last month to discuss whether or not to ban containers made of polystyrene foam, commonly but incorrectly known as styrofoam.  A ban would impact chains such as Jamba Juice.

The city is required by law to reduce its litter by 40% by 2014, 70% by `17 and 100% by `22.The ban is one of the options being considered and researched by the city council. One reason polystyrene is being singled out is because San Jose must submit its litter reduction plans to the regional water board and polystyrene foam can break down and enter waterways.

The California Restaurant Association opposes the ban, arguing that polystyrene is the most effective product to keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. The association asserts the real problem is litter in general, not specifically polystyrene.

Two other California municipalities, Santa Cruz and San Francisco, have expanded polystyrene bans as part of ordinances requiring that all takeout food packaging be recyclable or compostable; those bans started in 2008 and 2007, respectively.

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