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Comrie surveys St. Albans biz on soda ban

Eliot Hoff (l.), spokesman for New Yorkers for Beverage Choices, discusses Mayor Michael Bloomberg's proposed soda ban with City Councilman Leroy Comrie. Photo by Yinghao Luo
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City Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans), an opponent of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s so-called soda ban, said if hizzoner was really committed to reducing the amount of sugar New Yorkers consume, there was a better way to go about doing so than limiting the size of drinks a business can sell.

“I never supported the ban. Truly, I think it’s smoke and mirrors,” Comrie said Tuesday as he prepared to poll a few restaurants in St. Albans on their stance on the proposed ban. “If they really wanted to be serious about lowering sugar, they should address that.”

The councilman suggested a more effective approach might be modeled on legislation he introduced to limit the amount of sodium and calories in fast-food meals marketed at children. The bill was not passed into law, but McDonald’s took it upon itself to offer healthier menu alternatives.

Bloomberg has suggested banning the sale of certain sugary drinks larger than 16 ounces at certain types of businesses in an attempt to curb obesity.

Eliot Hoff, a spokesman for the anti-soda ban group, New Yorkers for Beverage Choices, said the proposal did not make much sense.

“There’s no study out there that says drinking more than 16 ounces of sugar impacts obesity,” he said.

Hoff pointed out that drinks that are more than 50 percent dairy are exempt from the ban, even though they may have more sugar overall than a 16-ounce soda. He said members of the coalition believe Bloomberg’s proposal was a distraction from unpopular policies, such as the plan to close struggling schools and proposed budget cuts.

He said business owners were concerned a soda ban may lead to a slippery slope, saying the administration has proposed cutting back alcohol consumption and encouraged breast feeding instead of using baby formula.

“They feel it’s extremely intrusive,” he said.

That was a line of logic that Jeffrey Rogers, owner and executive chef of the Nu Urban Cafe, on Linden Boulevard, agreed with.

“The next thing you’re going to tell me is I’m not going to be able to serve a burger over the size of 4 ounces?” he asked. “I’ve got a 10-ounce burger on the menu now.”

Owners at the other restaurants Comrie visited agreed they were against the ban, although the councilman admitted their opposition probably would not amount to much. The decision ultimately rests with the city Board of Health, which is made up of mayoral appointees.

“Unfortunately, it’s going to go through because he controls the entire committee,” Comrie said.

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at rbockmann@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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