While municipalities around the country continue to talk smack about sugary drinks, often while trying to slap a hefty tax on the beverages, the pop industry has been fighting back in the courtroom.
According to Reuters, industry group the American Beverage Association has filed a lawsuit against the New York City health department. The ABA says it had filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the city for documentation regarding its campaign against soda and other sweetened drinks, but that the city failed to provide all the requested docs.
An ABA rep tells Reuters that it requested the same information as the NY Times but received less than the newspaper did. “Public health departments are going out and aggressively misrepresenting our products in advertising and using taxpayer money to do that,” said the rep.
Meanwhile, the ABA has also filed similar requests with local governments in other areas of the country that have launched programs to dissuade the drinking of sugary beverages. Some say the group is just pulling a page from the old Big Tobacco playbook, trying to keep lawyers and officials busy with FOIA requests.
“It is, in our opinion, an effort to overwhelm or smother government employees, who already have too much to do,” said Ian McLaughlin, an attorney at the National Policy & Legal Analysis Network to Prevent Childhood Obesity in Oakland, California.
An official for the King County Public Health Department in Seattle, estimates that it will take around 750 hours and nine months to respond to the ABA’s FOIA requests.
“The purpose is to stop the staff from doing what they’re actually hired to do,” said Russ Sciandra, advocacy director for the American Cancer Society in New York state.