It is troubling that Howard County Executive Ken Ulman can dictate what people can eat and drink on county property ("Howard bans sale of sugary drinks on county property," Dec. 12). Last week, Mr. Ulman unilaterally banned the sale of certain beverages on all county properties, including recreation centers, government offices, parks and police and fire stations.

We agree that obesity is a serious problem. But we disagree with Mr. Ulman's heavy-handed tactics. Why not give the residents of Howard County, whose tax money pays for the upkeep of county properties, the dignity to think for themselves?

The beverage industry is leading the way with meaningful solutions that do not eliminate choice. We have voluntarily removed full-calorie soft drinks from schools in Howard County and across the country, and we have cut calories from beverages in schools by 90 percent.

Our industry is taking action to help consumers and parents make informed choices for themselves and their families to lead healthy, balanced and active lifestyles. Our member companies are placing clear calorie labels on the front of every can, pack and bottle we produce. That way, consumers have calorie information at their fingertips before they make a purchase.

The calorie labels and our school beverage guidelines are voluntary, industry-wide programs that are in place and working. These programs will do more to help consumers learn about the importance of moderation and balance in their diets than a ban ever could.

Howard County taxpayers deserve better than this. They might ask themselves when and where it will end. Will Mr. Ulman personally inspect everyone's grocery cart?

Ellen Valentino

The writer is executive vice president of the Maryland, Delaware and D.C. Beverage Association.

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