by Marion Nestle

Currently browsing posts about: Soft drinks

Dec 3 2014

Annals of gifting: Boxing Wednesday, I guess

I arrived in my office this afternoon to find this astonishing gift.  It was delivered and assembled by Health Warrior, Incl, the maker of Chia bars.

It came with a lovely letter from Health Warrior’s CEO, Shane Emmett, who must somehow know that I am finishing up the manuscript of a food about food advocacy using the soda industry as an example.  The book is as yet untitled (“Soda Politics”?) but it is in the works with Oxford University Press for September 2015.

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This is the start of our department’s gym.  We do practice what we preach.  Come box with us, any time.

Thanks to Shane Emmett, ever so much (I think).

 

Nov 21 2014

Weekend reading: a fresh take on the soda industry

Bartow J. Elmore.  Citizen Coke: The Making of Coca-Cola Capitalism.  Norton, 2015.

 

Elmore is an historian at the University of Alabama, whose book takes a fresh look at how soda companies managed to make fortunes selling cheap sugar water.   Advertising, he says, is only a minor factor in generating soda profits.

The real profits came from a business strategy that offloads the costs and risks onto suppliers, bottlers, and taxpayers.  Soda companies depend on taxpayers for the cost of city water supplies, the recycling discarded cans and bottles, the cleanup of containers that are not recycled, the transportation of sodas to the military,  and the health care of overweight consumers.

The public, he says, should be setting and collecting the price for use of public resources, rather than “accepting the bill for corporate waste.”

 

Oct 1 2014

Time Magazine Editorial: Soda Industry Promises

I was asked by Time Magazine to write a comment on the soda industry’s recent promises.  It was posted yesterday.

The Soda Industry’s Promises Mean Nothing

Agreeing to decrease soda consumption by 20 percent is easy to do when demand is already falling rapidly

–Marion Nestle, September 30, 2014

The recent pledge by Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and the Dr Pepper Snapple Group to reduce calories that Americans consumd from their products by 20 percent by 2025 elicited torrents of praise from the Global Clinton Initiative, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the national press.The real news: soda companies are at last admitting their role in obesity.Nevertheless, the announcement caused many of us in the public health advocacy community to roll our eyes. Once again, soda companies are making promises that are likely to be fulfilled anyway, whether the companies take any action or not.

Americans have gotten the word. Sodas in anything but small amounts are not good for health.

Although Coca-Cola and the American Beverage Association have funded studies that invariably find sodas innocent of health effects, the vast preponderance of research sponsored by the government or foundations clearly demonstrates otherwise.

Think of sodas as candy in liquid form. They contain astonishing amounts of sugars. A 12-ounce soda contains 10 (!) teaspoons of sugar and provides about 150 calories.

It should surprise no one that adults and children who habitually consume sugary drinks are far more likely to take in fewer nutrients, to weigh more, and to exhibit metabolic abnormalities compared to those who abstain or drink only small amounts.

And, contrary to expectation, diet sodas don’t seem to help. A widely publicized recent study suggests that artificially sweetened drinks affect intestinal bacteria in ways, as yet undetermined, that lead to metabolic abnormalities–glucose intolerance and insulin resistance. This research is largely animal-based, preliminary, and requires confirmation. But one thing about diet drinks is clear: they do not do much good in preventing obesity.

People who drink diet sodas tend to be more obese than those who do not. The use of artificial sweeteners in the United States has gone up precisely in parallel with the rise in prevalence of obesity. Is this a cause or an effect? We don’t know yet.

While scientists are trying to sort all this out, large segments of the public have gotten the message: stay away from sodas of any kind.

Since the late 1990s, U.S. per capita consumption of soft drinks has dropped by about 20 percent. If current trends continue, the soda industry should have no trouble meeting its promise of another 20 percent reduction by 2025.

Americans want healthier drinks and are switching to bottled water, sports drinks, and vitamin-fortified drinks—although not nearly at replacement levels. The soda industry has to find ways to sell more products. It also has to find ways to head off regulation. Hence: the promises.

To deal with sales shortfalls, the leading soft-drink brands, Coca-Cola and Pepsi, have expanded their marketing overseas. They have committed to invest billions to make and promote their products in Latin America as well as in the hugely populated countries of Asia and Africa where soda consumption is still very low.

From a public health standpoint, people everywhere would be healthier—perhaps a lot healthier—drinking less soda.

In California, the cities of San Francisco and Berkeley have placed soda tax initiatives on the November ballot. The American Beverage Association, the trade association for Coke, Pepsi, and the like, is funding anti-tax campaigns that involve not only television advertising and home mailings, but also creation of ostensibly grassroots (“astroturf”) community organizations, petition campaigns, and, when all else fails, lawsuits to make sure the initiative fails. These efforts are carbon copies of the tactics used to defeat New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s portion size cap proposal.

If the soda industry really wants to help prevent obesity, it needs to change its current practices. It should stop fighting tax and size initiatives, stop opposing warning labels on sugary drinks, stop lobbying against restrictions on sodas in schools, stop using sports and music celebrities to sell products to children, stop targeting marketing to African-American and Hispanic young people, and stop funding research studies designed to give sodas a clean bill of health.

And it should stop complaining, as PepsiCo’s CEO Indra Nooyi didlast week, that nobody is giving the industry credit for all the good it is doing.

If the government really were serious about obesity prevention, it could ban vending machines from schools, set limits on the size of soft drinks sold at school events, define the amount of sugars allowable in foods and beverages, and, most of all, stop soda marketing aimed at children of any age.

Because neither the soda industry nor the government is likely to do any of this, public health advocates still have plenty of work to do.

Marion Nestle is professor of nutrition, food studies, and public health at New York University. She is currently working on a book titled Soda! From Food Advocacy to Public Health.

Sep 25 2014

The latest soda industry PR ploy: 20% less soda by 2025

The Alliance for a Healthier Generation (founded by the American Heart Association and the Clinton Foundation) and the American Beverage Association (funded mainly by Coca-Cola and PepsiCo) jointly announced this week that the major soft drink companies were pledging to reduce beverage calories consumed per person nationally by 20% by 2025.

The Alliance, Coca-Cola, Dr Pepper Snapple, PepsiCo, and the American Beverage Association placed a full-page ad in yesterday’s New York Times:

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The Alliance says:

This is a tremendous undertaking by the industry, one that should be applauded, and also one that will not come easily. The industry will leverage every ounce of their national and local influence, product innovation and marketing muscle to reach this ambitious and necessary goal. And when this goal is reached, we believe it will not only signal a shift in access to reduced-calorie options, but also a positive shift in consumer interest in these no-and lower-calorie options.

The New York Times quotes former president Bill Clinton (it also quotes me*):

This is huge…I’ve heard it could mean a couple of pounds of weight lost each year in some cases…in low-income communities, sugary sodas may account for a half or more of the calories a child consumes each day.

In a statement, Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, said:

We congratulate the Alliance for a Healthier Generation and the beverage industry for continued action towards reducing the beverage calories consumed by people across the United States. We are especially pleased that this commitment will target communities with disproportionately high consumption rates of sugar-sweetened beverages. We look forward to working with the Alliance and beverage industry to measure and monitor the impact of this commitment on the health of our country.

Despite the congratulations, I can’t take this as anything more than public relations.

Soda sales are going to decline by that much anyway.

Although the Alliance says the companies will do this through national initiatives to educate consumers about smaller portions, lower-calorie beverages, and water, and to focus these efforts in lower income communities, they really don’t have to do a thing.

All they have to do is wait for these trends to continue.  The Times quotes me on this point:

While they’re making this pledge, they are totally dug in, fighting soda tax initiatives in places like Berkeley and San Francisco that have exactly the same goal,” said Professor Nestle, who has just finished a book about the industry.

Here’s what I mean:

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The American Beverage Association and soda companies are putting millions into fighting soda tax initiatives in San Francisco and Berkeley.

As the Center for Science in the Public Interest says, if the soda industry really were serious about helping Americans drink less of sugary products, it

could accelerate progress by dropping its opposition to taxes and warning labels on sugar drinks. Those taxes could further reduce calories in America’s beverage mix even more quickly, and would raise needed revenue for the prevention and treatment of soda-related diseases.

And, CSPI says, the soda industry should stop opposing and, instead, should support Representative Rosa DeLauro’s Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Tax Act of 2014 (the SWEET Act), which aims to tax caloric sweeteners.  This would raise $10 billion a year to help prevent and treat diseases caused by excess soda consumption.

But the CEO of Pepsi says the soda industry isn’t getting enough appreciation for its efforts to counter obesity.

Politico ProAg‘s Helena Bottemiller Evich reports that at a meeting sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) to applaud the soda industry’s announcement, Indra Nooyi, PepsiCo’s CEO,

expressed frustration with the endless criticism from activists who blame much of the obesity epidemic on the food industry despite what she sees as significant progress from the biggest brands in America…“Why not give industry a compliment and then talk about the next step?…We have now stemmed the growth in calorie consumption, which is huge…I look at those trends and think industry has done pretty well, as a whole.

Why the RWJF, a major funder of initiatives to counter obesity, seems so cozy with Pepsi is curious.

The coziness is especially curious because of Mrs. Nooyi’s “We.”  If the industry is “doing well,” it’s because health advocates, some of them funded by RWJF, have forced soda companies to change their practices.

The one significant accomplishment: an admission that sodas contribute to obesity

As the Wall Street Journal puts it,

The move is an implicit acknowledgment by the soda industry that longtime staples like Coke, Pepsi-Cola and Dr Pepper have played a role in rising obesity rates.

Now that really is a sign of progress.

Aug 31 2014

Happy Labor Day Weekend: Eat!

It’s the end of summer and time to contemplate, if not visit, State Fairs selling increasingly imaginative deep-fried treats.  Apparently, deep-fried Oreos and deep-fried butter are so last year.

The Wall Street Journal tells us that the Great New York State Fair—in Syracuse, right now—has a better one: “Twinks.”

And what, pray tell, is a Twink?

The recipe:

  • Take one Twinkie.
  • Stuff with a Twix candy bar
  • Wrap in bacon.
  • Dip in batter.
  • Deep-fry.
  • Sprinkle with sugar.

The damage?  Just south of 1,000 calories.

And from Montana, Daniel Schultz sends this photo of the latest grocery store deal.  If you buy a soda cake (soda cake?) for $4.99, you get 2 liters of your favorite soft drink to wash it down, free.

Soda Cake

Drive carefully.

Jul 31 2014

Rep. Rosa de Lauro introduces the SWEET soda tax act!

Yesterday, the fabulous Representative Rosa DeLauro (Dem_CT) introduced the Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Tax Act of 2014 (SWEET Act).  Here’s a quick summary of the bill. The SWEET Act (you have to love the name) would put an excise tax of one cent per teaspoon of sugars (a teaspoon is about 4 grams). The bill is clearly aimed at sugary drinks, which account for about half of total sugar intake.  According to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines (page 29),

  • Sodas, energy, and sports drinks account for 35.7% of total sugars
  • Fruit drinks—a category that does not include 100% juices—account for another 10.5%.
  • Sugar-sweetened teas account for 3.5%.

The tax ought to raise about $10 billion a year, and is earmarked for programs to combat soda-related disease. It also ought to further reduce consumption of sugary drinks, as is already happening in Mexico. If you would like to endorse this legislation, contact Kelly.Horton@mail.house.gov in Representative DeLauro’s office. References

 

Apr 29 2014

The Bloomberg soda cap rule: not over yet

Yesterday, Health Commissioner Mary Bassett announced that the National Alliance for Hispanic health and nine other New York City organizations had filed an amicus—“friend of the court”—brief in support of the ban on sales of sodas larger than 16 ounces (the “soda cap rule”).

The amicus brief filed today…is a reminder of what this rule is about: protecting the health of New Yorkers. Corporate lawsuits and well-financed marketing campaigns do not change the documented scientific fact that there is an obesity and diabetes epidemic in our city, with the epicenter in our poorest neighborhoods. We must protect New Yorkers from corporate practices that value profits at the expense of their customers’ health.

The Alliance issued its own statement.

“The beverage industry has pursued a strategy of legal obstruction and put profits over the health of its customers,” said Dr. Jane L. Delgado, President and CEO of the National Alliance for Hispanic Health, the nation’s leading science-based advocate for Hispanic health.

The amici brief concludes:

The problem that the Rule addresses – the impact of sugary drinks in contributing to obesity and other diet-related chronic disease – is an issue of importance and urgency  for millions of New Yorkers. The crisis calls for action – including the incremental action of reducing the portion sizes of sugary drinks in restaurants. For the one of every three children born in 2000 who will develop type 2 diabetes, and for the one of every two African-American and Hispanic girls who will get the disease, the question is not whether the Rule was justified but rather “What else is being done?”  It is for their sake that the Rule was adopted. It is for their sake that the Board concluded thaqt the inconvenience to the thirsty of having to order another soda was worth it.  It is for their sake that amici urge this Court to uphold the Rule.

The soda cap rule is on appeal to the State Supreme Court.  According to the Associated Press, a hearing is scheduled for June 4.

Congratulations to the new Commissioner for keeping this idea alive.

 

Oct 17 2013

Soda consumption up in California

The title of a new study from the California Center for Public Health Advocacy (CCPHA) and the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research says it all:, Still Bubbling Over: California Adolescents Drinking More Soda and Other Sugar-Sweetened Beverages.

Consumption of sodas may be declining among everyone else, but teenagers—the prime target audience—are drinking more.

Health advocates: get to work!

Background information:

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