NYC food stamp soda ban rejected

Aug. 19, 2011 at 10:17 PM

NEW YORK, Aug. 19 (UPI) -- The U.S. Agriculture Department Friday rejected a plan to use New York as a test for banning the purchase of sugary drinks with food stamps.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg proposed a two-year pilot program to see if the ban would reduce obesity rates among food stamp recipients, The New York Times reported.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the department wants to work with Bloomberg, but an official called a citywide ban "too large and complex" to be a good test of the plan.

"We think our innovative pilot would have done more to protect people from the crippling effects of preventable illnesses like diabetes and obesity than anything else being proposed elsewhere in this country -- and at little or no cost to taxpayers," Bloomberg said. "We're disappointed that the federal government didn't agree, and sorry that families and children may suffer from their unwillingness to explore our proposal. New York City will continue to pursue new and unconventional ways to combat the health problems that hurt New Yorkers and Americans from coast to coast."

Bloomberg's health measures have included smoking bans, most recently in public parks, and efforts to make restaurant meals more healthy by requiring nutritional and calorie information and banning transfats. Sugary sodas, sports drinks and fruit drinks are believed to be a major contributor to obesity.

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