Mayor: Should we ban soda and sugared drinks from restaurants completely? (update)

The council agenda is a little light on controversy this week, so Mayor Henrietta Davis has stepped in with a look into banning “soda and sugar-sweetened beverages” from Cambridge restaurants.

This, of course, follows on an attempt by Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York City to ban the drinks if served at sizes of more than 16 ounces. His rule does nothing about the refill, though, which means Davis’ inquiry would actually go further — if it goes anywhere. It’s a request for the city manager to ask the Public Health Department for a recommendation, and it could die pretty much anywhere along the way.

The suggestion begs the question as to why stop at soda, as it did in New York, but that city’s Board of Health, which supports Bloomberg’s proposal, had ideas about that: popcorn, milkshakes and other high-calorie treats may be next, according to CBS News. (One member “pointed out that even 100 percent juice and milk-containing beverages have large amounts of calories and should not be excluded,” the site says.)

The Cambridge version is sure to be controversial in a city that not only consumes a lot of, say, ice cream, but even makes a lot of it. In a city that likes to be welcoming to restaurants, it also eliminates a strong stream of revenue. “Soda from the fountain sells for 20 times the restaurant’s cost, and eight times more when it’s served in a can,” notes food writer Stacy Finz in the San Francisco Chronicle.

But what may be worse than the suggestion itself, for some, is the predictability of it in a bastion of liberalism such as Cambridge. We’re zigging instead of zagging, though; the Atlantic Cities blog wondered “Which City Might Try to Ban Huge Sodas Next?” back on June 7 and cut Boston and Cambridge from the finalists, finally guessing it’d be Seattle and Albany following Bloomberg’s lead.

The City Council meets at 5:30 p.m. Monday at City Hall, 795 Massachusetts Ave., Central Square.

Update: Davis said that despite the language she used in the policy order — “the matter of a ban on soda and sugar-sweetened beverages in restaurants,” as opposed to New York’s “plan to limit the serving size of soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages” — she intended her policy order only to mirror New York’s proposal. [emphasis added]

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