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Legislative Memo

Ken Pokalsky
Vice President
T 518.465.7511
www.bcnys.org

BILL:

S.162 (Rivera) / A.5239 (Dinowitz)

Support

SUBJECT:

Beverage “Health Warnings”

 

DATE:

May 22, 2017

 

The Business Council opposes this legislation that would require a “safety warning” on certain beverage and drink mix packages, as well as additional postings in food service establishments. Specifically, this bill would amend the Agriculture and Markets Law by requiring beverages with more than seventy-five calories per twelve fluid ounces that had added caloric sweeteners have a health warning label. A similar warning would be required on drink mix containers, and be on display by retailers that sell beverages in unsealed containers. If approved, this bill would apply to affected packages and retailers one year after its adoption. Non-compliance would be punishable with civil penalties up to $500.

We have a number of concerns with this proposal, which we see as imposing new compliance burdens on business while producing little if anything in the way of public benefits.

First and foremost, we have long-standing concerns with state-specific mandates being applied to products made and distributed for regional or national markets. Due to the interstate natures of this process, state specific laws, such as proposed in S.162 / A.5239, hinder interstate commerce, as it would preclude the movement of non-state compliant products into New York State when necessary to meet sales demands. This would impact not just product manufacturers, but distributors, retailers and container manufacturers as well.

Second, nutritional labeling is already mandated. Current federal Food and Drug Administration regulations impose general food labeling requirements that apply to sugar-sweetened beverages, covering net quantity of contents, ingredient lists, and nutrition labeling including calories. In fact, on May 20, 2016, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued new federal label requirements for all food products that will increase the type size for “Calories,” “servings per container,” and the “Serving size” declaration, and require bold print for the number of calories and the “Serving size” declaration to highlight this information, among other changes.

Third, and perhaps most important, this legislation will not have a meaningful impact on consumer behavior or health outcomes. As the beverage industry and others have pointed out, obesity and diabetes are complicated issues, involving diet, activity and other factors.¬†We question whether mandating a “safety warning” on a single product category would have any meaningful impact on this broad public health issue. Experience suggests otherwise; that reducing consumption of a single category of food or beverage is not an effective strategy to address adverse health outcomes.

For these reasons, we oppose approval of S.162 (Rivera) / A.5239 (Dinowitz).