NEW YORK (AP) — Soda sellers are set to get a three-month grace period from fines for violating New York City's upcoming crackdown on supersized sugary drinks, but a size limit still is set to take effect as planned in March, officials said Monday.
The reprieve on fines comes as soda makers, restaurateurs and other businesses are suing to try to block the unprecedented rule from going into effect at all. The city sees it as a groundbreaking step to fight obesity; the opponents call it unfair and overreaching.
The city Board of Health agreed in September to bar restaurants and many other eateries from selling high-sugar drinks in cups or containers bigger than 16 ounces, starting March 12. The requirement will start as scheduled, but the health officials "will not seek fines for noncompliance for the first three months," city lawyer Mark Muschenheim said in a statement.
Instead, businesses that break the rule would get notices from March to June. Then they could face $200 fines.
This approach echoes how the city has handled other public health rules, including making chain restaurants post calorie counts on their menus and barring artificial trans fats in french fries and other restaurant food.
Asked about the plan to hold off fines, the American Beverage Association pointed to the ongoing lawsuit. It argues that the health board didn't have the power to impose the rule, among other claims. A hearing is set for next week.
The three-month delay in imposing fines was broached at a court conference last week. Officials confirmed it Monday.
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