Berkeley Residents Accuse Soda Tax of Bias in Lawsuit
Two residents of Berkeley, California, have filed a lawsuit in state court alleging that the proposed 1-cent-per-ounce soda tax, which will appear on the ballot in November, uses “politically charged” language and affects beverages beyond the targeted “high-calorie, sugary drinks.” Johnson v. Numainville, No. RG14786763 (Cal. Super. Ct., Alameda Cty., filed August 13, 2014). The complaint accuses the city council of failing to define the term “high calorie, sugary drink,” and suggests “sugar-sweetened beverage” instead. The plaintiffs also argue that the tax would apply to “any beverage intended for human consumption to which one or more added caloric sweeteners has been added and that contains at least 2 calories per fluid ounce,” despite that under U.S. Food and Drug Administration guidelines, a 12-ounce, 24 calorie drink would actually be considered low calorie. They request that the court order the city council to insert their suggested phrases for the allegedly biased phrases. Additional information on the proposed soda tax appears in Issue 529 of this Update.