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Sugar high: LA councilman proposes limits on soda at city facilities

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New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg recently made headlines with a controversial proposal to limit the size of bottled and fountain drinks to 16-ounces, effectively eliminating “big gulp” size beverages from restaurants and events. Now L.A. Councilman Mitch Englander is getting in on the current “war on soda” with his own proposal.

As reported by Patch.com, Englander this week presented a motion to the Arts, Parks, Health and Aging Committee of the City Council that would effectively curtail the availability of soda in city-controlled facilities like parks and libraries.

“As a City, we need to lead by example by making soda unavailable in our recreation and library facilities,” reads the actual proposal. “Children cannot be blamed for poor nutritional choices, but as adults, we must limit those choices in City facilities known for children and teenage recreation.”

During the presentation, Englander poured out 22 packets of sugar to symbolize how much of the substance is packed into every 20 ounces of soda.

“The motion was first introduced in November 2011. Yesterday was the first time it was presented in committee,” clarified Matt Myerhoff, Councilman Englander’s communications director when reached by phone. “Our office has already received all kinds of positive support from the community, especially from parents. They want to know when their kids are out playing in city parks and other outdoor areas, they’ll have more options and healthier choices than just Coke, Pepsi or a water fountain.”

“I was at the meeting yesterday, and listened to Englander’s proposal,” said Susan Kent, the interim city librarian when reached by phone. “It’s all very interesting, but not really an issue for us, as there are currently no vending machines in any of the L.A. public libraries.” Soda has been banned from all Los Angeles Unified School District school cafeterias and campus vending machines since 2002.

Myerhoff concedes that the proposal is not without detractors, most notably soda companies and their political lobbies (“even though most of those companies have water brands we could work with”), as well as “people nervous about an overextension of government on their freedom of choice,” he continued. “We’re not trying to ban sodas altogether, we just want limits and more variety. Many times, vending machines will only have one slot for water, and it’s often sold out.”

“As a father who tries to teach his kids how important good health is, and as a Board Member of the American Diabetes Association,” Englander said in an email statement, “I feel very strongly that our City parks need to offer kids healthy beverage choices.”

The proposal is currently under 45 days review, after which a recommendation will be made.

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