At the end of March, the New York City Council passed and sent to the Mayor legislation that requires restaurants and other food service establishments to serve water, low-fat milk or 100% juice as the default drinks with children’s meals, rather than soda or other sugary drinks. Parents can still request these less healthy options but healthier choices will become the default option. The law will go into effect on May 1, 2020 and will impose monetary penalties on restaurants that violate it. This new law, know as Local Law 75 of 2019, adds a new tool to the public health goal of reducing sugar consumption but also sets the stage for additional reforms.
Globalization and neoliberal policies are shaping current food and agricultural systems. Food in cities and certain ideas regarding local food systems have emerged as counter-movements. As formulated in The Declaration of Nyéléni,* food sovereignty refers to “the right of people to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems. It puts those who produce, distribute, and consume food at the heart of food systems and policies rather than the demands of markets and corporations.” This declaration is a transformative paradigm, which entails the inclusion of diverse social actors in the processes of consultation, planning and decision-making. A recent example from the city of Madrid shows how to bring citizens to the heart of urban governance processes.
In response to growing pressure from eaters who want healthier food, governments that want to take action to protect public health and reduce the costs of diet-related diseases, and competitive markets that jeopardize profits, global big food companies have launched a multi-pronged campaign to protect their interests. One element of this campaign is to use nutrition science to justify its actions, a process that some have called “nutritionism”.