Critics Seek to Delay Sugary Drink Limit

NEW YORK (AP) -

Opponents are pressing to delay enforcement of the city’s plan to crack down on supersized sugary drinks, saying businesses shouldn’t have to spend millions of dollars to comply until a court rules on whether the measure is legal.

With the rule set to take effect March 12, beverage industry, restaurants and other businesses have asked a judge to put it on hold at least until there’s a ruling on their lawsuit seeking to block it altogether.

The measure would bar many eateries from selling high-sugar drinks in cups or containers bigger than 16 ounces.

“It would be a tremendous waste of expense, time, and effort for our members to incur all of the harm and costs associated with the ban if this court decides that the ban is illegal,” Chong Sik Le, president of the New York Korean-American Grocers Association, said in court papers filed Friday.

City lawyers are fighting the lawsuit and oppose postponing the restriction, which the city Board of Health approved in September.

They said on Tuesday that they expect to prevail.

“The obesity epidemic kills nearly 6,000 New Yorkers each year. We see no reason to delay the Board of Health’s reasonable and legal actions to combat this major, growing problem,” Mark Muschenheim, a city attorney, said in a statement.

Another city lawyer, Thomas Merrill, has said officials believe businesses have had enough time to get ready for the new rule. He has noted that the city doesn’t plan to seek fines until June.

The restriction won’t apply at supermarkets and many convenience stores because the city doesn’t regulate them.

While the dispute plays out in court, “the impacted businesses would like some more certainty on when and how they might need to adjust operations,” American Beverage Industry spokesman Christopher Gindlesperger said Tuesday.

Those adjustments are expected to cost the association’s members about $600,000 in labeling, bottles and other expenses, Vice President Mike Redman said in court papers. Reconfiguring “16-ounce” cups that are actually made slightly bigger, to leave room at the top, is expected to take cup manufacturers three months to a year and cost them anywhere from more than $100,000 to several millions of dollars, Foodservice Packaging Institute President Lynn Dyer said in court documents.