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Honest Tea Co-Founder Speaks On NYC Drink Ban

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Beverages like Honest Tea would find themselves subject to New York City's proposed ban.
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Beverages like Honest Tea would find themselves subject to New York City's proposed ban.

The president of Honest Tea, a beverage company based in Bethesda and now owned by Coca-Cola, is calling on New York City's mayor and board of health to reject a proposal to ban large sugary drinks.

"New York City, actually, is our largest market. We sell more beverages in New York City than in the entire state of California," says Honest Tea president Seth Goldman. What happens in New York City has a big impact on his business in Maryland, he says.

The bottled tea maker is taking issue with a proposed ban on sweetened beverages that contain more than 25 calories per 8-ounce serving. The measure is intended to curb obesity and prevent people from gulping down empty calories.

"This proposal will limit the maximum serving size for sugary beverages to 16 ounces, unless it is more than 50 percent milk or more than 70 percent fruit or vegetable juice," says Samantha Levine, a spokesperson with Mayor Michael Bloomberg's office.

Honest Tea's bottles are 16.9 ounces, and it could cost thousands of dollars to repackage products just for New York City, Goldman says.

"I think it just becomes increasingly confusing, complicated and ultimately, not really helping the consumer, when governments start creating barriers," says Goldman. "To carry it even further, it actually starts to imperil the capitalist system." Such regulations could have negative impacts on entrepreneurs who are actually trying to create healthy products, he adds. 

But Levine dismisses the rule's detractors.

"New York City is taking bold steps. We were leaders with the smoking ban and cutting out trans-fats and posting calorie counts, and each one of these have become popular decisions that have improved public health," Levine says. 

The New York City Board of Health is set to vote on the measure next month.

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