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Barclays Center becomes first food service venue to voluntarily comply with new rules limiting size of sugary beverages (but what about that unlimited food option?)

So the New York City Board of Health agreed to Mayor Mike Bloomberg's contentious plan to limit the sale of sugary drinks in food service establishment to 16 ounces (here's coverage in the Times), and the guest of honor at the press conference was developer Bruce Ratner, whose Barclays Center will voluntarily conform six months in advance.

At the press conference (video), Bloomberg noted that Ratner was once Consumer Affairs Commissioner under Mayor Ed Koch and "he's never lost his sense of civic responsibility."

"Bruce has never been shy about taking on a challenge, like bringing professional basketball to Brooklyn," Bloomberg said later, introducing Ratner. "Here he is, my hero."

Ratner's strategy

"I followed the issue from the very first day it came out," Ratner declared, saying it was important to fight obesity. "And I wanted to say, it wasn't a difficult decision at all. It was easy for me to make, because it was so important."

Well, however virtuous, it was also easy to make because the arena's not yet open and no course correction was needed. Ratner didn't say he was going to lean on his mall and movie theater tenants to voluntarily adopt the policy. That would have been heroic.

Also, Ratner's anti-obesity cred deserves an asterisk. The Nets offer an All Access Pass that can "be used for unlimited food, prepared by award-winning Levy Restaurants, at designated clubs and all fixed concession stands during NETS games -- a first-time offering for a major New York metropolitan area sports team."

So those sugary drinks, at least for the high rollers, can keep coming.

The press release, in part:
MAYOR BLOOMBERG, DEPUTY MAYOR GIBBS, HEALTH COMMISSIONER FARLEY AND BRUCE RATNER ANNOUNCE BARCLAYS CENTER WILL VOLUNTARILY ADOPT REGULATIONS TO LIMIT SIZE OF SUGARY BEVERAGES

New York City Board of Health Today Voted to Enact the Administration’s Proposal To Limit Size of Sugary Beverages Sold in Food Service Establishments

New Barclays Center, Home of the Brooklyn Nets, Decides to Voluntarily Adopt City’s Sugary Beverage Plan Six Months Ahead of Requirement; First Major Venue in City to Comply

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Linda I. Gibbs, Health Commissioner Thomas A. Farley and Chairman and CEO of Forest City Ratner Bruce Ratner today announced that the Barclays Center – the new home of the Brooklyn Nets – will voluntarily adopt the new regulations on the sale of sugary beverages adopted by the New York City Board of Health today. The Barclays Center, which will open next week, will be the first major venue in the city to voluntarily comply with the new regulations. Earlier today, the New York City Board of Health passed the Administration’s proposal to limit the size of sugary beverages sold in food service establishments to 16 ounces in order to combat the growing obesity epidemic that is taking the lives of 6,000 New Yorkers every year. The proposal passed the board with eight votes in favor and one abstention. The new regulation, which goes into effect on March 12, 2013 to give establishments six months to comply, states sugary beverages with more than 25 calories per eight ounces can only be sold in portions of 16 ounces or less. The regulation will apply to any food service establishment that is regulated by the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene: restaurants, mobile food carts, delis and concessions at movie theaters, stadiums and arenas.

“This is the biggest step a city has taken to curb obesity,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “Simply by proposing limits on sugary drinks, New York City pushed the issue of obesity – and the impact of sugary beverages – onto the national stage. The Board of Health’s passing this proposal means that New Yorkers will soon consume fewer junk calories and eventually begin turning the tide of the obesity epidemic that is destroying the health of far too many of our citizens. I raise a 16 ounce cup and toast Barclays for joining us today and implementing this plan 6 months ahead of schedule. This is a game-changing vote and the new Barclays Center is on the winning side.”

“Obesity is an illness that is slowly, painfully destroying health and taking lives,” said Deputy Mayor Gibbs. “Over time, our environment has been increasingly working against us – people move less and eat more, portion sizes have grown, and sugary beverages – full of empty calories – have grown exponentially and nearly 6,000 New Yorkers are now dying each year of obesity-related illness. The question rightly became not: how dare the government intervene, but how dare the government fail to intervene?”

“Today’s vote is a historic and important step in fighting New York City’s epidemics of obesity and diabetes. It continues the long tradition of this Board of Health leading the charge against major health problems of the day,” said Health Commissioner Farley. “It is my hope that in the future we will see today as a turning point in epidemics that each year claims the lives of thousands of New Yorkers.”

“As the newest sports and entertainment venue in Brooklyn, Barclays Center is thrilled to work with the Mayor and the city to help achieve the Mayor's public health goals,” said Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Forest City Ratner Bruce Ratner. “New York City has set a standard for the country and the world when it comes to public health and we are very proud to be the first to adopt the standards for sugary beverages in our new venue.”

The Administration first proposed the new regulation in May to combat the growing obesity epidemic. Health experts from across the country have noted sugary drink consumption is a key driver of the obesity epidemic as sugary drinks are high in calories, served in large sizes, and deliver no nutritional value. They do not create a sensation of fullness, so people typically do not cut back on other calories when they consume extra calories through sugary drinks.

Beverages that are less than 25 calories per 8 ounces, more than 50 percent milk or 100 percent fruit or vegetable juice are not impacted. Additionally, all self-service cups or containers shall not contain more than 16 fluid ounces.

The proposal was introduced at the June 12, 2012 Board of Health meeting and was available for public comment through July 24th, when a public hearing was held before the Board of Health. The Board received more than 38,000 written comments and 55 individuals testified.

The regulation will be enforced through the City’s regular restaurant inspection process. Food service establishments will have six months time to adjust menu boards, cup and container sizes and make other necessary changes in order to be in compliance with the regulation.

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