Oh New York City you trendy town you!
Have you had a chance to read about the most recent nutrition regulations proposed by New York’s Mayor Bloomberg? I haven’t been following the news very closely but when my most recent issue of TIME magazine fell open to a short article on the controversial issue I couldn’t help but read it.
Honestly when I first heard about the soda ban I assumed it was directed at the super big 32 ounce and larger “single serving” cups made popular by convenience stores. When I actually read the article I learned that Mayor Bloomberg’s proposal is “a ban on the sale of large-sized sugar-sweetened beverages — that includes sodas, sweetened teas and coffees, energy drinks and fruit drinks.“ in containers larger than 16 oz.
The more I read the more the practicality of enacting such a proposal struck me as utterly ridiculous.
“The ban would apply to food service establishments selling bottled as well as fountain drinks; retailers would have to remove 20-oz. soft drink bottles from their shelves, and delis and restaurants offering self-service fountains wouldn’t be able to give customers cups larger than 16 oz. The ban wouldn’t affect convenience stores or grocery stores and wouldn’t apply to diet drinks, fruit juices, dairy-based drinks like milkshakes or alcoholic beverages.”
-TIME.com The New York City Soda Ban, and a Brief History of Bloomberg’s Nudges
By the end of the article I concluded that his proposal and subsequent statements were surely designed to be an aggressive and abrasive platform to get Americans talking.
So, let’s talk.
In 2008, under Mayor Bloomberg, New York City began requiring restaurants with 20 or more locations to provide calorie counts to their customers. A year later King County in Washington State, which includes the city of Seattle, begin requiring chains with 15 or more locations to publish not only calorie counts but grams of saturated fat, carbohydrates, and sodium in their menu items (Dec 8, 2008 kingcounty.gov). As far as I am aware these regulations did not change the variety of items available. From a consumer perspective I was thrilled by the new regulations.
Our family lives minutes from King County and often find ourselves eating out in Seattle. The changes that effected restaurants in New York, and other cities who followed its lead, have effected restaurants across the country. We can walk into many places now and request a version of the menu with the nutritional information to make a better informed choice for our meal. The new regulations have brought to light even more astounding information about what we have been eating at our favorite restaurants. Some were already providing this information to their customers through their web sites or in print at their establishments. Now hundreds more have joined them and customers who want to know are empowered to ask more questions. From where I sit all this education is a good thing.
I have posted before that we should feed those we love with respect so they will be around longer. I would like to think that places who want repeat business would approach their menu items with the same philosophy. Yes, it is extremely costly to have the nutrition details calculated for an extensive menu. I imagine most customers take an, “I’d rather not know,” attitude but I hope the more information is available the more mainstream it will become to utilize it.
In my opinion: The recently proposed soda ban doesn’t have the same clear ring to it as the nutrition information mandates. Health professionals, weight loss advisors, and I will all caution against unintentionally drinking your calories. However study after study is being done on the potential effects of ingesting artificial sweeteners. I don’t have any to quote and I don’t think that it important at this juncture. My point is regulating the size of vessel for sugar sweetened drinks does nothing to educate consumers about what is in the cup. Even if the proposal passes and soft drink companies have to figure out how to comply the average person will likely go unaffected by the changes.
Photo from Flickr “5.16.07″ by zingersb, courtesy of Creative Commons
In the future we can chat more about where government regulations cross the line, supply chain, restaurants, the pros and cons of sugars vs. artificial sweeteners, and so very many other issues related to the foods we consume.
In the mean time – I would love to hear your thoughts.
Have you read about the proposed soda ban? Would a ban affect your purchasing habits?
Do you take advantage of nutrition information when it is available? Does it impact what you order?
Have you ever chosen to eat somewhere (or not) based on their willingness to provide information to their customers?
Are you in the food industry? Has your business been impacted by any recent regulations?