A bill slated for introduction to the City Council on Wednesday would require chain restaurants and stores to warn customers if any item on the menu has more than 50 grams of added sugar, or 12.5 teaspoons.
Supporters of the bill, dubbed the Sweet Truth Act, were expected to rally in its support on the steps of City Hall Wednesday afternoon. Some of its backers include Councilmember Keith Powers, several doctors from the consumer advocacy group Center for Science in the Public Interest and Columbia University Medical Center.
“For a lot of New Yorkers, I recognize that ignorance is bliss, but we do want to make them make smarter decisions,” Powers said. “You might, when you get your morning coffee, have one or two sugars in your coffee. But the coffee you're getting at Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts has 15 or 16 packs of sugar. It's a huge difference and it's really unhealthy.”
If passed, the bill would apply to large chains with 30 locations or more within the five boroughs, including McDonalds, 7-Eleven, and Starbucks,. The bill would empower the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to come up with a standardized warning logo that chains would have to use on items containing excessive amounts of sugar, Powers said.
A pared down version of the Sweet Truth Act passed the City Council last December, requiring chain restaurants to warn patrons if food exceeded the recommended daily value for added sugar, but this only applied to pre-packaged goods.
Sugary drinks have long been a target of public health authorities. A 12-ounce can of soda contains more than 10 teaspoons of sugar, and fast food restaurants often peddle drink sizes far larger than that.
People who drink between one and two cans of soda a day are 26 times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes, according to 2010 study led by a researcher at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health. The risk was even higher for young adults and people of Asian descent.
Consuming too much sugar can lead to weight gain, obesity, and heart disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
More heavy-handed efforts to crack down on sugary drinks in the past have faced blowback from both industry groups and New Yorkers. Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg tried to ban soda servings of 16 ounces or more. The law was blocked in court.
Another attempt to impose more restrictive bans like that, weren’t currently on the table, Powers said.
“It may have been the right idea, but certainly New Yorkers we're not ready to say, ‘you can't have this,’” Powers said. “What we've seen in other areas, whether it is sodium, whether it is calorie counts, even letter grades at restaurants, when you give New Yorkers information, they make good choices.”