Soda fountain

A proposal by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to decrease rising obesity rates through a ban on using food stamps to purchase soda and other sugar-laden drinks was rejected by the USDA.

Bloomberg first proposed the ban along with Governor David Paterson in October 2010, pointing to the excessive calories consumed through sugary soft drinks. The average American consumes the equivalent of 555 cans of soda per year. One in ten Americans drinks soda at breakfast and 70 percent of all soda sales are of sweetened beverages, which can contain nearly 40 grams of sugar per serving.

While food stamps already have some limitations on what can be bought through the program, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack officially rejected the Bloomberg proposal last week, stating the ban would raise issues including the effectiveness of the suggested modifications which would pose logistical challenges in terms of implementation.

In a statement, Bloomberg spoke to his frustration about the decision, “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” and assured New Yorkers that his administration will continue to look at innovative ways to combat the health problems affecting the people of New York, and across the U.S.

Nearly 50 million Americans currently receive food stamps through the Supplementary Nutrition Assistance Program. An estimated six percent of all food stamp benefits go to purchasing soft drinks, and as much as $135 million dollars worth of food stamps are spent on sugar or high fructose corn syrup sweetened drinks in New York every year.

Sweetened sodas have been linked to a number of health risks, including obesity and diabetes, as have diet soft drinks, which are also linked to neurological disorders, infertility and certain types of cancer.

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image: Like_the_Grand_Canyon