New York City's Board of Health did not have the authority to approve a ban on certain sales of sugar-sweetened beverages larger than 16 ounces, according to a lawsuit filed Friday by a group of business owners and workers.
The suit from the American Beverage Association and other business and trade associations states that the city's unelected Board of Health overstepped its power when it voted for the ban to be implemented.
"This board has the authority to enforce policy, not the authority to enact it," said Caroline Starke, a spokeswoman for the plaintiffs. "That power is reserved for the City Council."
The lawsuit also claims that "the regulation is arbitrary and capricious," is filled with irrational exclusions and loopholes, and harms thousands of small businesses in the city.
The Board of Health was not immediately available for comment Friday.
The ban, which was approved last month, would outlaw drinks larger than 16 ounces at restaurants, food carts and any other establishments that receive letter grades for food service. It would not apply to grocery stores.
It is scheduled to go into effect in March.
Critics, including McDonald's and Coca-Cola, have assailed the ban as "misguided" and "arbitrary," though Mayor Michael Bloomberg has billed it as both a health and fiscal initiative.
New York City spends an estimated $4 billion each year on medical care for overweight people, Bloomberg has said.
One in eight New Yorkers also suffers from diabetes, a disease often linked to obesity, his office noted, calling sugary drinks "the single largest driver of these alarming increases in obesity."