Building Healthy Communities

Project Title

The Impact of the New York City Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Policy on Calories Purchased and Consumed

Grant Amount


Priority Area

Building Healthy Communities

Date Awarded

December 5, 2012






Sugar-sweetened beverages include soft drinks and non-diet sodas, fruit drinks, sports drinks, energy drinks, and some sweetened milk products.

These beverages are among the largest contributors to weight gain in the modern American diet. Recognizing these trends, a number of organizations and policymakers are implementing measures to reduce consumption of these drinks as part of the effort to reduce obesity. On September 13, 2012, the New York City Board of Health passed an ambitious measure to ban the sale of oversized sodas and other sugary drinks by restaurants, movie theaters, and street cart vendors. The regulation is one of the largest-scale public health restrictions in the United States that aims to curb obesity by altering the food environment. With support from NYHealth, the New York University School of Medicine (NYU) set out to evaluate whether the policy would lead to changes in consumer behavior.

Under this grant, NYU examined the policy’s influence on New York City adults’ and adolescents’ calorie purchasing and consumption at fast-food restaurants, where the majority of sugar-sweetened beverages subject to the policy are sold. The research team collected point-of-purchase receipts, conducted a brief survey of fast-food restaurant consumers, and conducted a follow-up 24-hour dietary recall survey of these same consumers. The proposed evaluation also examined the impact of the policy on the availability, price, placement, and promotion of sugar-sweetened beverages. Although the New York City soda ban was overturned in 2012, data from NYU’s evaluation were incorporated into another study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine that examined the nutritional quality of children’s meals at fast food restaurants and the possible implications of policies designed to regulate these meals. A follow-up study published in Health Affairs analyzed consumer behavior at fast-food restaurants and found that calorie labeling on menus did not impact the nutritional content of foods and beverages purchased by consumers.