Boston Bans Sale, Marketing of Sugary Drinks on City Property
In a move to trim Boston’s rising obesity rates, Mayor Thomas Menino has banned the sale and advertising of sugar-loaded drinks from city-owned buildings and city-sponsored events.
Mayor Menino’s executive order, signed on April 7, 2011, calls for city departments to phase out regular sodas, sports drinks, and other high-sugar beverages from their vending machines, cafeterias, and concessions. (1) In their place, the city will offer healthier beverage options—among them, water, flavored seltzer, unsweetened coffee and tea, and diet drinks. Sugary drink marketing, from logos on vending machines to banners at events, will also be barred.
Americans consume on average more than 200 calories each day from sugary drinks (2, 3) —four times what they consumed in 1965 (4)—and strong evidence indicates that our rising thirst for “liquid candy” has been a major contributor to the obesity and diabetes epidemics. (5–10) Boston, which barred soda and junk food from public school vending machines in 2004, is not alone in its broader beverage ban effort. Boston’s Carney Hospital also announced on April 7, 2011 that it would ban high sugar beverages from hospital grounds, making it the first hospital in the city to do so. (11) Cleveland Clinic banned high sugar drinks from its vending machines and cafeterias in August 2010. (12) San Francisco, (13) Los Angeles County, (14), and other cities have also curtailed sugary drink sales on municipal property.
: Steps that consumers, soft drink makers, and government can take to cut back on sugary drinks
Why to limit sugary drinks, and why diet drinks may not be the best alternative
A handy guide to the calories and teaspoons of sugar in popular beverages
: Cutting back on sugary drinks, keeping weight in check, and being more active can help
The goal of these bans is to make healthy choices easy choices—and to counter the billions of dollars beverage manufacturers spent each year on soft drink marketing. That’s just the type of environmental support Americans need to curb their taste for sugar-loaded drinks, public health experts say—and in turn, curb the obesity epidemic.
“There is abundant evidence that the huge increase in soda consumption in the past 40 years is the most important single factor behind America’s obesity epidemic,” says Dr. Walter Willett, chair of the Dept. of Nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health, who joined Mayor Menino at the soda ban’s announcement. “These steps will greatly assist in creating a new social norm, in which healthier beverages are the preferred choice.”
After a six month grace period, any new city beverage contracts will need to comply with the city’s Healthy Options Beverage Standards. (1) The standards prohibit beverages that contain sugar (or other caloric sweeteners), among them, regular soda, energy drinks, sports drinks, pre-sweetened tea and coffee drinks, juice with added sugar, and sweetened water products. Whole milk and 2 percent milk have also been given the boot, due to their high saturated fat content.
Here’s what city departments can serve, besides water, sparkling water, and plain coffee or tea:
- Fruit or vegetable drinks that are 100 percent juice, and no or low sodium, can be sold in small (8 ounce) portions.
- 1 percent or skim milk, soy milk, or other milk substitutes, can be sold in small (12 ounce) portions; sweetened, flavored milk will be allowed, as long as it has no more than 25 grams of total sugar in 8 ounces.
- Diet beverages sweetened with calorie-free sweeteners are also allowed, but they can make up no more than one-third of the beverages offered in a vending machine or cafeteria.
The city has also unveiled a “traffic-light” style promotional campaign to help consumers choose healthier beverages based on their sugar and nutrient content. The campaign, which groups beverages into “red” (limit), “yellow” (better choice, drink occasionally), and “green” (best choice) categories, is similar to the “How Sweet Is It” beverage guidelines developed by the Harvard School of Public Health’s Department of Nutrition in 2009.
See the How Sweet Is It? beverage guidelines on The Nutrition Source.
1. Executive Order of Mayor Thomas Menino. An Order Relative to Healthy Beverage Options (PDF). April 7, 2011. Accessed April 14, 2011.
2. Wang YC, Bleich SN, Gortmaker SL. Increasing caloric contribution from sugar-sweetened beverages and 100% fruit juices among US children and adolescents, 1988-2004. Pediatrics. 2008; 121:e1604-14.
3. Bleich SN, Wang YC, Wang Y, Gortmaker SL. Increasing consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages among US adults: 1988-1994 to 1999-2004. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2009; 89:372-81.
4. Duffey KJ, Popkin BM. Shifts in patterns and consumption of beverages between 1965 and 2002. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2007;15:2739-2747.
5. Schulze MB, Manson JE, Ludwig DS, Colditz GA, Stampfer MJ, Willett WC, Hu FB. Sugar-sweetened beverages, weight gain, and incidence of type 2 diabetes in young and middle-aged women. Journal of the American Medical Association. 2004; 292:927-934.
6. Malik VS, Schulze MB, Hu FB. Intake of sugar-sweetened beverages and weight gain: a systematic review. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2006; 84:274-288.
7. Malik VS, Willett WC, Hu FB. Sugar-sweetened beverages and BMI in children and adolescents: reanalyses of a meta-analysis. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2009; 89:438-9; author reply 439-40.
8. Vartanian LR, Schwartz MB, Brownell KD. Effects of soft drink consumption on nutrition and health: a systematic review and meta-analysis. American Journal of Public Health. 2007; 97:667-675.
9. Palmer JR, Boggs DA, Krishnan S, Hu FB, Singer M, Rosenberg L. Sugar-sweetened beverages and incidence of type 2 diabetes mellitus in African American women. Archives of Internal Medicine. 2008; 168:1487-1492.
10. Malik VS, Popkin BM, Bray GA, et al. Sugar-sweetened beverages and risk of metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes: a meta-analysis. Diabetes Care. 2011; 33:2477-83.
11. Business Wire. Press Release: Carney Hospital to Ban the Sale of Sugar Sweetened Beverages. April 7, 2011. Accessed April 14, 2011.
12. Cleveland Clinic. About Us. Accessed April 14, 2011.
13. Office of the Mayor Gavin Newsom, City & County of San Francisco. Executive Directive 10-01: Healthy Food & Beverage Options in Vending Machines. (PDF) Accessed April 14, 2011.
14. Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. Los Angeles County Food Policy. Vending Machines, Fund-Raising, and County-Sponsored Meetings. (PDF) Approved by the Board of Supervisors August 8, 2006 and ammended August 18, 2009. Accessed April 14, 2011.
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