NYC to Combat Obesity by Prohibiting Sale of Large Sugary Drinks

By - MAY. 31, 2012

Today the Department of Health announced that it seeks to prohibit the sale of sugary drinks in containers of more than 16 fluid ounces at restaurants and food carts. Read about it in the New York Times and the New York Post.

View facts and figures on sugary drinks from the Mayor's Task Force on Obesity here. 

View the New York City Obesity Task Force Plan to Prevent and Control Obesity here.

This action builds on Mayor Bloomberg’s aggressive life-saving public health initiatives, such as banning smoking in public places and calorie postings at chain restaurant locations, that have improved life expectancy in New York City by nearly three years since 2000, outpacing the increase in the nation as a whole by 1.4 years.

More than half of New York City adults (58%) are overweight or obese and nearly 40% of New York City’s public school students in grades K-8 are overweight or obese.

Obesity kills thousands of New Yorkers a year and costs $4 billion a year in health care costs.

One in eight New Yorkers has diabetes, a condition often linked to obesity. Nationally, one in four teenagers has prediabetes. One in four military recruits is disqualified because of being overweight. And obesity is the only major health problem in New York City that is getting worse.

The single largest driver of these alarming increases in obesity is sugary drinks, which have grown in size. Individual McDonald’s drinks have increased 457% in volume since 1955. A “large” size at quick service chains now varies from 32 to 64 ounces, and Americans now consume 200-300 more calories daily than we did 30 years ago.


Scientific studies have shown what common sense already tells us: when larger portions are in front of people, they simply consume more, often without recognizing it.

  • In one study, people given sugary drink portion sizes 50% larger drank 20% to 33% more, without reducing food intake.
  • People given 18 ounces (vs. 12 ounces) of beverage drank 10% to 26% more, with no decrease in food consumption and no difference in reported “fullness” or thirst.

If approved, the City’s proposal would take effect six months after Board of Health approval and would be enforced by the City’s regular restaurant inspection team.

Restaurant owners will have nine months from the adoption of the proposal until they face fines. During that period, they will have time to adjust menu boards, etc., and are likely to undergo a regular letter grade inspection, during which they will be reminded of the new rules. Nine months after the proposal is adopted, fines of $200 will be issued for violations. As with other Health Code violations, restaurant owners will be able to challenge violations before an administrative judge.


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