She said the British government could learn from New York’s Mayor Bloomberg’s controversial plan to ban of the sale of super-sized sugary drinks.
Bloomberg wants to stop the city’s restaurants, delis, sports stadiums and cinemas selling large sizes of sweetened soft drinks in a bid to tackle obesity.
Abbott told FoodManufacture.co.uk: “The contrast with the national British government could not be starker. Mayor Bloomberg seems unafraid to take on big business in order to secure the progress that New York needs on public health.
“Whereas Andrew Lansley’s entire strategy has become an expensive advertising programme for his friends in big business. This coalition government’s approach is one that’s failing.”
Under Bloomberg’s proposal, all food outlets regulated by the city authorities, including restaurants, street carts, delis, cinemas and sports arenas, would be forced to restrict the size of the cups in which they dispense fizzy drinks to a maximum of 16floz, or a little under 500ml. This would abolish the large- and super-sized containers that can extend to almost 2l floz in some fast food outlets.
The move is part of the Mayor’s crusade for public health, which includes battling transfats, smoking, calorie-labelling and alcohol.
"More than half of New York City adults (58%) are overweight or obese,” Bloomberg tweeted. “We’re doing something about it.”
Abbott said: “I think this is a bold move by Mayor Bloomberg and I applaud him for that. It indicates to me that he understands the scale of the challenge.”
The New York City Beverage Association (NYCBA) said the measures, which could come into effect next year, were “zealous”.
“The city is not going to address the obesity issue by attacking soda [sweetened soft drinks] because soda is not driving the obesity rates,” NYCBA spokesman Stefan Friedman said in a statement.
But officials at Mayor Bloomberg’s office at City Hall disagree. Citing a 2006 study, they argue that sugary drinks are the biggest factor in rising calorie consumption and obesity levels.
Abbott said she would take inspiration from Bloomberg: “The way Bloomberg has made public health one of his top priorities in New York is a real inspiration to me, and I’m keen to learn from what he’s doing.”
“The Labour Party is undertaking a policy review right now. The approach I am building for Labour on public health is not about banning things, but rather about empowering communities and strengthening families to do the right thing. And helping to provide the civic space that Britain needs.”
Meanwhile, the US’s first National Soda Summit is taking place today (June 8) in Washington DC.
To read our sister title Food Manufacture’s Big Interview with Abbott, click here .