New York soda size limitations barred by state court judge

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NEW YORK — New York City's ban on large-size soda drinks was blocked by a judge after industry groups including the American Beverage Association sued to stop the plan, calling it an unfair burden on small businesses.

The city's Board of Health in September approved Mayor Michael Bloomberg's plan to limit the size of sugary soft drinks sold in restaurants, movie theaters, stadiums and arenas to no more than 16 ounces (473 milliliters) a cup.

Groups representing beverage makers, restaurants and theaters filed a petition in New York State Supreme Court in October, the state's trial level court, seeking to block enforcement of the measure, calling the ban "unprecedented interference" with consumer choice.

New York Supreme Court Justice Milton Tingling in Manhattan approved the group's request, issuing a permanent injunction preventing the city from implementing the plan, which had been scheduled to begin March 12. The city may appeal the ruling.

The groups said the decision by the Board of Health to approve the ban was overreaching and ignored the rights of New Yorkers to make their own choices. The plan is "grossly unfair" to small businesses such as hot-dog vendors and pizzerias because convenience and grocery stores can still sell the larger sizes, lawyers for the groups told Tingling during a hearing in January.

Convenience and grocery stores, which are regulated by New York State, are exempt from the rule.

The city argued that it's trying to stem an epidemic of obesity driven by consumption of sugary beverages, which is rising because food establishments sell ever-larger portions. Under the city's rule, people can still buy as many of the smaller drinks as they want and get refills.

The mayor is the majority owner of Bloomberg LP, the parent of Bloomberg News.