After months of ominous signs, the Board of Health (mostly) unanimously approved Mayor Bloomberg's plan to restrict the sale of sugary drinks Thursday during a somewhat defensive meeting. Although Bloomberg gave a press conference afterwards lauding the anti-obesity measure, we were still left with questions about what beverages this ban would and wouldn't restrict. So below, we've tried to break it all down for you.
What drink sizes are banned: Any sugary drinks in cups over 16 ounces. Don't expect to be getting pitchers of soda anytime soon.
What kinds of drinks are affected by ban: Definitely all non-diet sodas, definitely lemonade. As for coffee, see below.
What kinds of drinks aren't affected by ban: Alcohol! You should also be able to still get Frappacinos (although, consult the coffee rule below), and also (unsweetened) fruit juices. Diet sodas are excluded from the ban—but even that is kind of complicated. Technically, you can get 32 ounce diet Cokes if you want, but restaurants/movie theaters with self-serve soda fountains won't be allowed to give out any cups larger than 16 ounces anyway. But at least you can still get all those free refills!
Seriously, what about coffee? Sweetened coffee drinks may or may not be covered by the rule, depending on the amount of milk (dairy) they contain. The idea is that dairy provides nutritional value (and sugary drinks lack dairy), so if your coffee has more than 50% dairy, you'll be fine. Of course, how establishments will actually measure/decide that amount has yet-to-be seen.
What are "calorie thresholds" and what do they have to do with any of this? The calorie threshold is 25 calories per 8 ounces. Coffee drinks that have more than 25 calories per 8 ounces (and contain less than 50% dairy) will not be able to be sold in sizes larger than 16 ounces at all FSEs.
Wait a minute...what about milkshakes? Tell us we can still drink each other's milkshakes: As with coffee, milkshakes may or may not be covered by the rule—depending on the amount of milk they contain. Which, ya know, seems kind of silly.
What establishments will the ban affect: All food service establishments (FSEs) licensed by the city will be required to comply with the rule. FSEs include restaurants, mobile food vendors (including pushcarts and vehicles), concessions at stadiums and movie theaters, and delis/small grocers where more than 50% of annual sales is from food for consumption on the premises or ready-to-eat for off-premise consumption. Basically, anywhere that gets letter grades.
What establishments will the ban not affect: If you really want that giant soda bottle, you can still get them at supermarkets, bodegas, and pharmacies. And of course, nobody can touch your 600 calorie Big Gulp from 7-Eleven.
And lastly, here's the actual text of the amendment: