Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Soda Ban Unintended Consequences

So one of the unintended consequences of the Soda Ban in New York City is that you can't get a 2 Liter bottle of regular coke with your pizza.  Apparently a 2 Liter bottle of Diet Coke is OK though.  Also, no more pitchers of root beer at birthday parties - because you know it is too tempting for some little kid to just down the whole thing.  However, if you go to your local grocery store, you can by 2-liter bottles of Coke (and Mountain Dew) until they run out and order more.  Just don't buy them from Dominoes. It is times like these that I am glad I don't live in New York City and wonder why 8 million people still do.  But then again, they elected Bloomberg, so they got what they wanted.

I looked at the regulation a little more and found out something.  First off, the regulation specifically defines a "sugary drink" as meeting these 4 criteria:

1) Non-alcoholic (so if you are worried about not getting your giant margarita in a 20 oz glass, don't its perfectly legal - unless its a virgin margarita!)

2) Sweetened by manufacturer or establishment with a caloric sweetener (hence the reason Diet Coke is kosher, but regular Coke is not - to say nothing of Mexican Coke which uses real sugar and probably would cause the entire city of New York to go into diabetic shock)

3) More than 25 calories per 8 oz serving

4) Does not contain more than 50% milk or milk substitute

I deal with government regulation on a daily basis.  This one is a beauty.  There are some obvious work arounds here. So let me use the USDA Nutrition database for some examples of what is legal and illegal. Since a "sugary drink" has to meet all four criteria, as long as we don't meet one criteria, then we're good to go.

Criteria 4 is the first hit.  If I have a glass of milk, it can be as big as I want it (because it is more than 50% milk). So, milk is legal.  In all of its varieties.  Milk, Chocolate Milk, Strawberry Milk, etc.  Do you understand that.  Milk has 130 calories per serving.  Skim milk has 90 calories per serving.  Both of them have 50 calories from sugars per 8 oz serving.  And since they are more than 50% milk, criteria 4 is not met, therefore, I can order a 2 Liter bottle of milk from Pizza Hut or McDonald's and they can sell it to me without fear of being fined.

Which means Chocolate milk is also legal.  Because it is more than 50% milk (unless you use a whole crap ton of Hershey's syrup, in which case, just drink the syrup).  So chocolate milk with 200 calories per serving (100 of them from sugar, 50 calories from added sugar) is also legitimate.  But a 16.1 oz bottle of Mountain Dew is worth a fine.

Now Eggnog is a bit of a quandry.  If it is alcoholic, then it is legal (Criteria 1).  If it is the non-alcoholic kind, though, we might have issues. In a typical recipe I have seen, you have a pint of milk, a 1/3 cup of sugar, 4 eggs, and a cup of heavy cream.  Now if we can count the heavy cream as milk, then we are safe.  If however it doesn't count as milk, then we are going to be cutting it close.  A pint is two cups, one cup of cream means 4 eggs and 1/3 cup of sugar have to be less than 1 cup.  Maybe if they are small eggs. I'm going to err on the side of caution and say non-alcoholic eggnog is illegal to sell in greater than 16 oz cups.  We can call this the Virgin Margharita Loophole. From a health standpoint, the non-alcoholic beverage has to be better for you, yet the city has chosen to leave the alcoholic beverage legal.

Fruit Juice is also OK.  And Vegetable Juice. I looked through the nutrition database and obviously numbers vary, but every single fruit or vegetable juice I could find had more than 25 calories (usually a lot more) per 8 oz serving.  But since the manufacturer is not adding the sugar (Criteria 2), they are perfectly legal.

Lemon juice in particular, is OK.  But Lemonade is NOT! Because they have to add sugar.  So, lemon juice with 54 calories per 8 oz serving = good, but lemonade with 106 calories per 8 oz serving = bad. But Chocolate milk at 200 calories per 8 oz serving = good. (Don't ask me what geniuses figured this out.)

Most soft drinks (that aren't diet) have around 100 calories per 8 oz serving.  Less than what normal milk has and about the same as Fruit juice. But they are banned from being served in a size greater than 16 oz.

Now with any amount of regulation, people will find ways around it.  So let me share mine.

1) Drink more milk.  It is ridiculous that the pizza company can't deliver a 2 liter bottle of Coke, but they can send over a gallon jug of chocolate milk.
2) Add alcohol to everything.  This could revolutionize the industry, although I admit some combinations might not be appetizing.  In college, one of my dorm mates wanted to have a Root Beer - Beer mix.  This was after he had already had a few beers. He said it didn't taste that good, and he was inebriated - imagine if you try this sober!
3) Sell components.  Have a packet of Coke syrup to be added to a 2 Liter bottle of carbonated water.
4) Stock up on those miny sugar packets and sell unsweetened (not even artificial sweetener) drinks.  People will quickly catch on to how many packets are needed for a pitcher.  It is ridiculous that you can't sell the customer a 2 liter bottle of coke, but if they have a cup of coffee and like it REALLY sweet, they are allowed to add as many packets of sugar as the establishment stocks.
5) When people order a self serve drink cup, give them two.  One for ice and one for the drink.  Then they have their full 16 oz of drink and can pour it over the ice as needed.
6) Move out of New York City.  Come on, 300 million people in this country don't live in New York City, and yet we get along fine with our lives.  Some of us don't even drink sugary drinks that often.

Except Eggnog.  I love Eggnog!

1 comment:

  1. You're hilarious! Darn.... I love Lemonade and Pizza.