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Mayor Bloomberg's Sugary Drink Ban for Food Stamps Rejected by USDA

By Jill Colvin | August 19, 2011 6:49pm
Sugary sodas line the aisles of an East Harlem Associated Supermarket.
Sugary sodas line the aisles of an East Harlem Associated Supermarket.
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DNAinfo/Jill Colvin

MANHATTAN— The U.S. Department of Agriculture has rejected Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s bid to prohibit the purchase of sugar-sweetened beverages using food stamps.

In a letter released Friday, the department said it had serious concerns about the potential viability and effectiveness of the proposal, which the mayor and former Gov. David Paterson had argued would help curb obesity and diabetes.

“After carefully and extensively considering your original proposal… we have decided to deny the waiver request," the department wrote in a letter to the state. "USDA has a longstanding tradition of supporting and promoting incentive-based solutions to the obesity epidemic…  We feel it would be imprudent to reverse policy at this time."

The department also raised practical concerns, arguing the proposal was “too large and too complex" and that it would be difficult to determine which products would be eligible and force retailers to comply.

Bloomberg said he was disappointed by the news.

“We think our innovative pilot would have done more to protect people from the crippling effects of preventable illnesses like diabetes and obesity than anything being proposed anywhere else in this country and at little or no cost to taxpayers,” he said in a statement.

“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.”