Sugary drinks battle takes center stage in Washington
WASHINGTON (NBC) -- On the heels of a controversial proposal in New York City to get rid of some super-sized sodas health professionals from all over the country converged in the nation's capital Thursday with one mission: Putting a lid on soda consumption.
"They're the greatest source of added sugar in the diet, completely empty calories, no nutrition at all," says Dr. Kelly Brownwell of Yale University's Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest hosted the event designed to share ideas on how to cut down on consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages.
Missing were representatives of the soda industry.
The American Beverage Association, which was denied access to the summit, says it wants to be part of the growing national debate about sugary drinks.
The organization asks one critical question: Do sugary beverages link directly to obesity?
"There is absolutely a link between excessive consumption of sugary drinks and weight gain, that is not the entire obesity epidemic problem in America today, but it's a major contributor," says New York Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley.
Farley defended his city's recent proposal to ban sugar-sweetened beverages over 16 ounces in restaurants and movie theaters.
"It sends people a message about what would be the maximum appropriate serving size for a human at a meal," he explains.
Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter calls the proposed ban "proactive and innovative."
"Government does have a responsibility to step in and at least provide information, raise awareness and ultimately help people make the healthier choice option," Nutter says.
He's proposed a soda tax in his city.
The soda industry had full-page ads in Thursday's Washington Post touting its moves toward smaller serving sizes and lower-calorie products.