Keep Food Legal Applauds Court's Decision to Scrap NYC Soda Ban We Helped Fight

Keep Food Legal executive director Baylen Linnekin took to print, radio, and TV this week to applaud Monday's decision by a New York State judge to overturn New York City's arbitrary ban of certain subjectively large sizes of sweetened drinks like soda. The ban was to take effect this week, but Judge Milton Tingling's welcome decision means the the city will move forward without any such ban.

Watch video of Linnekin above, appearing on Fox Business Channel's Markets Now show with host Dagen McDowell. Linnekin also appeared as a featured guest this week on the nationally syndicated Dennis Miller Show, Curtis Sliwa Show, Andrea Tantaros Show (audio starts at about 19:30), and on America's Radio News Network and Voice of Russia.

As Linnekin noted in each appearance, Keep Food Legal applauds Judge Tingling for rightly acknowledging the ban was a wrongheaded and arbitrary and capricious prohibition passed by an unelected health board whose members were each appointed personally by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The judge's decision is a great victory for consumers and consumer rights and for small and large businesses alike. It's also a stinging loss for a segment of the well-funded, powerful public-health apparatus in this country that seeks to limit food freedom.

Linnekin was also one of five legal experts asked this week by the National Review to comment on Judge Tingling's decision.

“The key thing is that this was an arbitrary and capricious action by the health department, and the court recognized that," Linnekin told NRO's The Corner. "It’s a victory. In general, I’d like to see the court being more vocal in defending people’s rights to make their own choices, but this is definitely a good first step."

Linnekin also spoke with Law360, the popular legal news service, and was quoted at length.

“'Rather than advancing public health policies, this [soda ban] is making people skeptical of public health policies,' said attorney Baylen J. Linnekin of the group Keep Food Legal, which advocates for freedom of food choice and opposes the Bloomberg policy."

While Mayor Bloomberg has already indicated the city plans to appeal the judge's ruling, Linnekin expressed cautious optimism at the prospects of the plaintiffs winning on appeal.

“As confident as the city is, the plaintiffs in this case should be very confident as well,” Linnekin told Law360. “They have victory on their side already.”

Read the comments Keep Food Legal submitted in July in opposition to the city's proposed soda ban, details about Keep Food Legal's oral testimony before the city's health department, and much more about our advocacy work on this issue here.


Keep Food Legal Promotes Food Freedom Across the Airwaves

Keep Food Legal executive director Baylen Linnekin has appeared recently in a variety of media outlets to share our stance on many of the more controversial food issues today.

For example, Linnekin appeared on BBC Radio (audio starts at about 28:30) this week to discuss the state of the U.S. food safety system in the face of an ongoing scandal involving the misbranding of meat--in this case horsemeat being sold as ground beef--across the European Union. And earlier this month, a column by Linnekin critical of the FDA's newly proposed food safety rules appeared at Food Safety News, a leading food safety website. The column's fact-based criticism of the FDA's costly but ineffective proposals so riled many regulatory cheerleaders that it led Food Safety News to print a response by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI)--a multi-million-dollar interest group that advocates for dramatic increases in food regulations at all levels of government.

Because new soda taxes and bans seemingly are proposed on a weekly basis, Linnekin also appeared on News/Talk 760 WJR (audio runs about 10-1/2 minutes) in Detroit to present our arguments against a petition to the FDA by CSPI urging the agency to place a hard cap on the amount of sweetener that can appear in beverages. He also appeared on WVMT NewsTalk 620 in Vermont to discuss Keep Food Legal's opposition to a potential soda tax in the state. (See more on that story--including our written testimony before the Vermont legislature--in the blog post at left.)

Other media appearances have focused on a variety of issues--including everything from the popular Dodge "God Made a Farmer" Super Bowl commercial (which Linnekin discussed in his weekly Reason column) and an appearance on New York University's WNYU radio to discuss the unintended consequences of farm subsidies.

Stay tuned--quite literally--for more from Keep Food Legal! And make sure to follow us on Twitter, where we always announce our scheduled media appearances before they happen.

Keep Food Legal Takes to the Airwaves to Rip Proposed DC Soda Ban, Sin Tax

Last week Keep Food Legal executive director Baylen Linnekin appeared on the evening newscasts of Washington, DC's ABC and Fox affiliates. Linnekin was critical of two proposals that would restrict access to soda and other sweetened beverages in the District under the guise of combating obesity.

One proposal, floated by DC council member Mary Cheh, would attach an excise tax to purchases of soda. Critics--including Linnekin--have long argued that data does not support such a tax. The other, suggested by two other council members, would be modeled after New York City's wrongheaded and illegal ban on subjectively "large" portion sizes.

In his two television appearances, Linnekin argued on behalf of Keep Food Legal and its member and supporters in the District that enactment of these proposals would serve as little more than a tax increase on low-income consumers (who drink soda at higher rates than do middle- and upper-income consumers) that would not improve anyone's health. Furthermore, since obesity rates have been rising even as soda consumption has fallen over the past decade, the claimed causal connection for these taxes and bans simply does not exist, a point Linnekin made in his remarks on ABC affiliate WJLA:

Baylen Linnekin of the group “Keep Food Legal” says the District shouldn’t legislate what people should and shouldn’t eat or drink.

“Consumption rates of sweet drinks have been going down for a decade and yet obesity has been going up. Soda isn’t the culprit,” says Linnekin.

His Fox 5 comments focused on the rights of consumers to make their own decisions.

"It all boils down to food freedom of choice. It's not up to government to tell us what we should eat and shouldn't eat."

Read more about Keep Food Legal's efforts to promote beverage freedom of choice here.

Keep Food Legal Rips NYC Soda Ban in Bloggingheads Appearance

In a recent appearance on the popular social-media debate site Bloggingheads, Keep Food Legal executive director Baylen Linnekin was critical of New York City's soda ban. The Bloggingheads video aired just hours before the city's unelected health department rubber stamped (in an 8-0 vote) Mayor Michael Bloomberg's ban on the sale of most sodas larger than 16 ounces in the city.

Watch Linnekin argue why the Ninth Amendment "presumption of liberty" (along with other portions of the Bill of Rights) affords equal protection to your right to eat a Big Mac, drink a giant soda, or eat a leafy green salad.

If you like the work Keep Food Legal is doing to fight the soda ban in New York City--along with our recent report in support of small farmers and their right to sell at farmers market, our longtime advocacy in support of food trucks around the country, our role in the fight to keep foie gras and dozens of other foods legal in California and beyond--we urge you to donate to Keep Food Legal and become a member today!

Keep Food Legal Helps Lead Fight Against NYC's Proposed Beverage Ban

Keep Food Legal has been critical of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's outrageous proposal to ban many sweetened drinks greater than 16 ounces.

On Tuesday, July 24 Keep Food Legal executive director Baylen Linnekin appeared before the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the city agency that may adopt the ban, and spoke out against the ban on behalf of Keep Food Legal's members and supporters in New York City and across the country. You can view PowerPoint slides from Linnekin's presentation here.

Keep Food Legal also submitted written comments in opposition to the ban that same day--also on behalf of its members and supporters in New York City and beyond. An excerpt:

Keep Food Legal, on behalf of its members and supporters, opposes the Proposed Amendment of Article 81 (Food Preparation and Food Establishments) of the New York City Health Code, found in Title 24 of the Rules of the City of New York (the “proposed ban”)....

The most obvious negative intended consequence is that the proposed ban would raise the taxes of New Yorkers—and do so in a most undemocratic manner. After all, at its heart the proposed ban is a revenue “bill” to be voted on by an unelected board that is intended to compel some New Yorkers to pay higher sales taxes. This would occur because a purchase of two sixteen-ounce beverages would a cost consumer more than a purchase of one beverage greater than sixteen ounces—and because sales taxes constitute a percentage of each sale and so rise in relation to the overall price of a sale. Mayor Bloomberg, both predicting and promoting the sale of multiple beverages the proposed ban would foster, said last month that when it comes to customers seeking one beverage greater than sixteen ounces, restaurants could instead “serve it in two” purchased cups.


[T]he proposed ban would restrict food freedom of choice. Mayor Michael Bloomberg opined last month that the right to drink a large soda is not one of the “freedoms.... that the Founding Fathers fought for.” But the proposed ban is (as previously noted) a revenue bill to be voted on by an unelected board. In this way (and others), the proposed ban very much harkens back to those acts of British economic aggression against the American colonies in the 1760s and 1770s—which, like the Sugar Act, nearly always centered on unfairly taxing and restricting food choices—that led the Founding Fathers to fight the American Revolution.

At the close of Tuesday's hearing, Keep Food Legal hosted a fun and fabulous (and well-publicized and well-attended) happy hour and soda salon at the great Northern Spy Food Co., a locavore-friendly eatery in New York City's East Village.

Linnekin has also spoken out against the proposed ban in the media--including on Dennis Miller's nationally syndicated radio show--and devoted two of his recent Reason magazine weekly online columns to the proposed drink ban. You can read those here and here.

What's next for Keep Food Legal when it comes to New York City's proposed ban? Stay tuned. And if you'd like to support our work in this and other areas, we urge you to please become a member of Keep Food Legal.

Keep Food Legal Happy Hour and Soda Salon at NYC's Northern Spy 4-6pm Tuesday July 24th

Keep Food Legal is thrilled to invite our New York City members and supporters to a very special happy hour and soda salon next week at Northern Spy, a highly praised restaurant located at 511 E. 12th St. in New York City's East Village. The happy hour and soda salon will take place from 4-6 PM on Tuesday, July 24.

The soda-themed event will follow on the heels of Keep Food Legal executive director Baylen Linnekin delivering remarks in opposition to New York City's proposed soda ban at a public hearing held inside the New York City health department headquarters. (Keep Food Legal will also be submitting written comments, something you may do by clicking here.)

Northern Spy, which typically doesn't serve soda, will be featuring large pitchers of artisanal soda for this happy hour and soda salon.

In addition to extra-large artisanal sodas (Mayor Bloomberg notwithstanding), Northern Spy bar staff will be serving up happy hour specials, including $2 off all beers, wines, and cocktail glasses, and $5 off wine bottles. Light snacks will be provided, additional (yummy) food will be available for purchase.

We'll be signing up new Keep Food Legal members during the happy hour and salon (you can pay by check or credit card or join in advance at our website). At 6 p.m. we'll randomly select one Keep Food Legal member (among those New Yorkers present who are already Keep Food Legal members and those who join at the happy hour and salon on Tuesday evening) to receive a $50 gift certificate to Northern Spy!

"This event isn't about promoting soda," says Keep Food Legal executive director Baylen Linnekin, who wrote about the ban in a recent Reason column. "I could count on one hand the number of sodas I have consumed over the past year. For me and Keep Food Legal, this event is about promoting--and protecting--food freedom of choice."

"Northern Spy is proud to host the Keep Food Legal Happy Hour because we believe in a robust and open debate on food policy and access issues," says co-owner Christophe Hille. "We think that any time one group in a position of power dictates limits on what another group may consume, it's worth at least being skeptical. Beyond that, we love people who love food, which is fair description of Keep Food Legal."

  • WHAT: Keep Food Legal Happy Hour and Soda Salon (featuring happy hour specials, artisanal soda, light snacks)
  • WHEN: Tuesday, July 24, from 4-6 PM
  • WHERE: Northern Spy (bar area), 511 E. 12th St. (East Village)

Opposed to the ban? Agnostic? Come on out and mingle and chat over great food and drink in one of New York City's most respected restaurants. Northern Spy, an acclaimed three-year-old restaurant that's helped New Yorkers learn to love kale and was hailed recently by Obama Foodorama for having the best brunch in New York City, has built its menu "around seasonality and quality, whenever possible using locally grown, raised, caught, and crafted products, procured from people who do those things with care."

We'll be standing and milling about the bar area at Northern Spy from 4-6 p.m. We're grateful to Northern Spy for hosting what promises to be a fun and enlightening event, and we look forward to seeing you there!

For press inquiries, to RSVP for the happy hour at Northern Spy (appreciated but not required), or to suggest a Keep Food Legal happy hour or other event in your city, contact us here!

Come to Thursday's Keep Food Legal Happy Hour in Brooklyn, NY

Please join Keep Food Legal executive director Baylen Linnekin at a very special happy hour from 4-6 PM at the fabulous Dekalb Market in downtown Brooklyn, New York this Thursday, June 21.

The happy hour is being hosted jointly by Robicelli’s bakery and NextDoorganics CSA, both of which are located within Dekalb Market. The market also features several other food vendors that cater to a wide variety of food desires, and a bar that serves local beer and wine.


What: Keep Food Legal Happy Hour

When: Thursday, June 21 from 4-6 PM

Where: Robicelli's &  NextDoorganics at Dekalb Market in Downtown Brooklyn, NYC // 138 Willoughby Street (@Flatbush Ave), Brooklyn, NY 11201

Subway: B/Q/R to Dekalb Ave. | A/C/F/R to Jay St. Metrotech



Meet, Greet, Tour, Drink, & Eat (Specials)!

Both Robicelli’s and NextDoorganics will be featuring happy hour specials. Mention the Keep Food Legal happy hour at Robicelli’s and get 2 of their award-winning cupcakes for just $6! And mention the Keep Food Legal happy hour at NextDoorganics and get one of their craft-made veggie sodas for just $2!

As if these special deals aren't not awesome enough, NextDoorganics will also hold a raffle drawing for a CSA box for a Keep Food Legal supporter! Sign up for the NextDoorganics newsletter to be eligible.

And while you’re enjoying great food and company, Baylen will say a few words and answer your questions about Keep Food Legal, Amanda from Robicelli’s will lead newbies on a brief tour of Dekalb Market, and Chrissy from NextDoorganics will talk to attendees about supporting local agriculture and about her local cooking club.


What Brings Keep Food Legal to New York City?

Baylen Linnekin is in New York City this week to present his ongoing, joint research on local foods and local food laws at the annual Association for the Study of Food and Society (ASFS) conference (the largest and most respected food-studies symposium of its kind). This year’s three-day conference is being held jointly by New York University (where Linnekin will speak on Saturday) and the New School. Linnekin is also keen to arrive in New York City at a time when the city’s bureaucratic apparatus is ready to wage a monumental, controversial, and ill-conceived crackdown on sugar-sweetened drinks.


About Robicelli’s

Robicelli’s at Dekalb Market is a internationally known bakery specializing in cupcakes, brownies, whoopie pies, and (new) ice cream sandwiches. Robicelli’s cupcakes include such flavors as lemon blueberry ricotta: Italian lemon cake, ricotta buttercream, blueberries, lemon zest, and s’mores (chocolate cake, speculoos pudding, toasted marshmallow buttercream, graham cracker crumbs, ganache). Robicelli’s bakes seasonally, using fresh and local ingredients if they are available, and says they don’t (and won’t) do Red Velvet. 


About NextDoorganics

NextDoorOrganics at Dekalb Market is a weekly pay-as-you-go CSA (community-supported agriculture) that sources local and organic produce from the area, as well as supporting small food businesses through their "pantry" items, which CSA members can pick. The NextDoorganics shipping container also has a rotating menu, based on the best food available, and allows people to learn new ways of preparing their fresh produce.


About Dekalb Market

Dekalb Market is an innovative shipping-container market in downtown Brooklyn that curates vendors from Brooklyn and the New York City area. Dekalb Market focuses on entrepreneurship, quality, community, sustainability, and education. Dekalb Market plays host to small farms and growing plots--which are worked by local organizations and students--along with a wide range of sustainable and local businesses. The market’s motto is “eat. shop. drink. play.” Though outdoors, Dekalb Market does have a few covered areas in case of rain.

Dekalb Market will be closing at 8 PM on Thursday for a film screening (weather permitting). Keep Food Legal happy hour attendees are welcome to purchase a ticket and stay for the show!