by Marion Nestle

Currently browsing posts about: Soft drinks

Apr 9 2009

The argument for soda taxes

Kelly Brownell of the Yale Rudd Center and Tom Friedan of the New York City Health Department write that taxes on sodas make sense as a way to get people to consume less of them (New England Journal of Medicine, April 8).  Cutting down on sugary drinks is the first thing to do to control weight.  Brownell and Friedan lay out the arguments for and against soda taxes and conclude that this approach has significant potential for improving health. Take a look at the paper and see if you agree.

In the meantime, Corby Kummer at the Atlantic Food Channel writes about what’s happening in Washington on this very issue.  And David Katz responds to comments from the Beverage Association about the paper (hint: they didn’t like it).

Apr 4 2009

Prevent childhood obesity: drink water?

I can hardly believe it but just having drinking fountains in schools (and no sugary drinks) seems to be enough to reduce the risk of obesity in kids by 31%.  This astonishing result is reported in the latest issue of Pediatrics. Investigators arranged to have drinking fountains installed in about half of 32 elementary schools in “socially deprived” areas of Germany.  They also prepared lesson plans encouraging water consumption.  Kids in the intervention schools drank more water and reported consuming less juice.

Could we try this here?  The barriers are formidible.  First, the water fountain problem.  Water fountains must (a) be present, (b) be usable, (c) be clean and sanitary, and (d) produce water that is free of harmful chemicals and bacteria.  All of these are problematic.  I once tried to find out whether the water in school drinking fountains in New York City had been tested and was known to be safe to drink.  I had to file a FOIA (freedom of information act) request to get testing data.  This came from only a few schools and from water going into the fountains, not coming out of them.

And then there is the soda problem.  Schools in Germany do not have vending machines all over the place and kids do not have access to sodas, juice drinks, and other such things all day long.  Ours do.

But doesn’t this study suggest that if we got rid of vending machines and junk foods in schools – and made sure water fountains worked, were clean, and distributed clean water – that we could make a little progress on preventing childhood obesity?  Worth a try, no?

Feb 17 2009

Today’s giggle

Thanks to everyone who e-mailed this to me today. It’s a joke (I think), but a thoroughly plausible one. It’s flying around the Internet.  Here is its source. It is produced by koert van mensvoort whose own website is worth a look.  Enjoy!

The next great health food!

Feb 14 2009

Soda tax: just a public policy argument?

Remember New York State Governor David Paterson’s idea about taxing sodas to raise funds for health care? According to news accounts, New York State Governor, David Paterson, now says his proposal to tax sodas is just a rhetorical device.  He didn’t really think it would ever pass.  He just wanted people to talk about how to do something to prevent childhood obesity.  Chalk this one up as a win for soda companies?

Update February 19: here are Kelly Brownell’s thoughtful comments on the matter.

Feb 10 2009

Response to Pepsi ads

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Thanks to everyone who sent me this link to this interesting way to interpret those Obama-like Pepsi ads.

Dec 23 2008

FDA warns Coke: Coke Plus violates Jelly Bean rule!

Thanks to Jack Everitt for forwarding an article from Reuters U.K. about the FDA’s recent warning to Coca-Cola.  Coke Plus, says the FDA, violates the Food and Drug Act.  Food companies are not allowed to add vitamins and minerals to sugary carbonated water (or jelly beans)  just so they can be marketed as healthy.

OK, but Coke Plus is not exactly a secret.  How come the FDA waited to do this until this “midnight” period just before a new administration takes over?  And how come, asks Jack, do we have to “hear about this from a UK newspaper, rather than a US one. Just like with the last election, we now have to rely on out-of-the-country news sources.”

Let’s hope the FDA is a high priority for Obama.  It should be!

Dec 17 2008

Bookkeeping: End-of-year columns

I have an op-ed (about the FDA’s handling of melamine in U.S. infant formula) and a Food Matters column (answering questions about salt) in the San Francisco Chronicle this week, and a response to a question from Eating Liberally about Governor Paterson’s proposed tax on soft drinks.  Enjoy!

Dec 16 2008

More on the NY State soft drink tax

Here’s the proposed statute. The relevant section reads:

“Create Sales Tax on Soft Drinks. Imposes an additional 18 percent rate of sales and compensating use taxes on fruit drinks that contain less than seventy percent of natural fruit juice and non-dietetic soft drinks, sodas and beverages. By increasing the price, it will discourage individuals, especially children and teenagers, from excessive consumption of these beverages. Revenues will be directed for health care initiatives.”

And here’s the American Beverage Association’s predictable response:  hurts the middle class, nobody wants it, no science or logic behind it.  The New York Times refers to what’s happening as a “spirited debate” (I am a participant).

It will be interesting to see how this plays out.  For example, the maker of a carbonated juice drink wrote me to complain that her product, which is 50% juice and taxable, contains under 70 calories per 8-ounces in comparison to non-taxed 100% fruit juice at 110 calories/8 ounces.  Obesity is about calories, no?  Or is it really about the kinds of products people habitually drink?

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