LOS ANGELES -- The National Automatic Merchandising Association was among the vending and beverage industry advocates to testify at a hearing last week against a proposal to ban sodas from vending machines in Los Angeles parks and libraries.
Los Angeles city councilman Mitch Englander pointed to childhood obesity as the motivation behind his proposal, stating that one in four children in Los Angeles is obese.
The councilman said he was motivated by his daughter to create the plan after she complained that park vending machines were mostly filled with high-sugar drinks and the one selection devoted to bottled water was generally sold out. He wants to see the drinks replaced with a healthier mix of options like fruit juices or water.
Sandy Larson (pictured here), NAMA's senior director and counsel of government affairs, stressed in her testimony that the vending industry is concerned about obesity and overall health issues. She emphasized that NAMA has developed programs like Balanced for Life and Fit Pick to educate its members and consumers regarding healthy choices and the need to balance calories consumed and exercise.
"There is also inequity here," Larson argued. "This proposal targets vending unfairly when other retail options for soda, including pushcarts, catering trucks and stores are in close proximity of vending machines." In addition, Larson said the measure could lead to job loss by putting a strain on vending operators, many of whom are small business owners.
Also testifying in opposition to the ban were Larry Atnip, Atnip Co. (Fullerton), who is first vice-president of the California Automatic Vendors Council; Richard Cassel, First Class Vending (Bell Gardens, CA); and David Thorp, director of government affairs for the American Beverage Association. All of them expressed the willingness of the vending and beverage industries to work with the City Council and the Department of Parks and Recreation on a plan to provide a variety of products in vending machines that includes soda.
Englander's proposal will now be reviewed by city departments, including the city attorney, who will offer their recommendations in about 45 days.
Separately, NAMA on June 15 issued a position statement opposing New York City's proposed ban on sweetened beverages served in 16-fl.oz. packages or larger. Mayor Michael Bloomberg's controversial proposal to ban supersized sugary drinks at the Big Apple's city foodservice establishments was recently approved by the city's Board of Health. | SEE STORY
Restricting consumer choice through public policy is not a viable solution, NAMA's stated. "Proposals like this distract from real solutions to help keep consumers healthy," the association argues. | SEE FULL STATEMENT