The multi-billion-dollar beverage industry in the United States has fired the first salvo in its fight against New York City's plan to ban the sale of large colas, according to a report in The New York Times newspaper.
In May, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg had tabled a proposal to ban the sale of large colas and other sugary drinks at restaurants, movie theaters and street carts, in a major push to combat rising obesity.
If approved, the first-of-its-kind ban on any cup or bottle of sweetened drink larger than 16 fluid ounces could come into effect as soon as March next year.
The expected, aggressive action by the big soda companies has come in the form of a coalition called New Yorkers for Beverage Choices which will co-ordinate public relations efforts in the campaign to fight Bloomberg's proposed plan.
The campaign, being led by the Washington-based American Beverage Association, includes lobbyists meeting mayoral candidates and New York City Council members, New Yorkers being urged to sign petitions and Facebook and Twitter pages telling readers to "say no to a #sodaban".
The association also distributed a 'fact sheet' to New York City Council members, detailing data showing calories from sugar-sweetened beverages declining even as obesity figures keep going up.
"Food is the No. 1 source of added sugars, not sugar-sweetened beverages," says the document, insisting that calories from soda and other sugary drinks form a small fraction of the American diet.
However, NYC officials are also doing their bit to raise awareness, spending almost $3 million since 2009 over advertisements showing a link between sodas and obesity.
The day of reckoning in this battle between federal officials and big industry is July 24 when the New York Board of Health, which must approve the proposed restrictions, plans a public hearing on the proposal.