by Marion Nestle
Sep 1 2009

The Beverage Association responds

I promised to post some of the responses to the New York City Health Department’s new campaign against sugary drinks.  Here’s what the New York Times has to say.  Still reeling from the American Heart Association’s recommendation to reduce sugars from soft drinks (see previous post), the Beverage Association has issued this statement:

The messages being spread about beverages by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene are so over the top that they are counterproductive to serious efforts to address a complex issue such as obesity. Like most foods, soft drinks and other sugar-sweetened beverages are a source of calories. Simply naming one food source as a unique contributor minimizes a disease as complex as obesity. The key to energy balance and maintaining a healthy weight is counting calories in and calories out, not focusing on specific foods or abstaining from any one food or beverage in particular. While we support the campaign’s desire to help people lead healthier lives, we do not believe the campaign imagery represents a serious effort to address a complex issue such as obesity…Further, the beverage industry provides an array of beverages with a wide range of calories, including zero calories…all of which can be part of a balanced lifestyle [my emphasis].

Yes!  Drink water!  Preferably out of a tap!

  • We would hardly expect any other message from the beverage industry when sugar containing soda is such a fundamental income generator for them. While other more healthy supplement drinks and green tea drinks are part of their offering, they are currently such a tiny portion of their revenue and likely offer a lower profit margin than drinks made with commodity materials such as refined sugars and sweeteners.

  • Cindy

    What crap! Soft drinks have NO place as “part of a balanced diet.”

  • Janet Camp

    Do these people have NO shame?

    Wellescent – the “health” drinks are no better–most are sweetened and the so-called health claims of the “supplement” drinks are the latest scam to hedge their losses in the traditional soda market. If you are really concerned about health, heed Marion’s advice. If you want tea, make a cup of tea–what’s with putting it in an artful bottle, adding some “nutrient” and a dose of sweetener, calling it “Zen” and pretending it has any more value than a Coke?

    I’m with Cindy on this. It all reminds me of that old cereal slogan, “part of this nutritious breakfast”. As someone said, “yeah, so is the box–which has more fiber than the cereal”.

  • Props to the NYC Dept of Health and MH! I have lovely print outs of the the “Read ‘Em Before You Eat ‘Em” ads, and will print these out next – BRILLIANT! 🙂

    Also, your last line, “Yes! Drink water! Preferably out of a tap!” – also brilliant. That’s why you’re my fav.

  • Cathy Richards

    As always, the beverage industry does a fine job at telling the truth while hiding the truth. With a nutrient density of zero, pop is just not something that North Americans can afford right now. It’s amazing what a press release can say when you have pricey marketers and lawyers involved. Stick with it New York — you know you can. You did it with trans against all odds.

    (Pop is especially not affordable in the United States, where obesity is rampant and healthcare for all is being stymied by fearmongerers. I’m a Canadian, we are not a socialist state but a democratic nation with many health related businesses, insurers, and doctors making a great living. I love our health care system. It’s not the very best system, but it’s a darn good one)

  • tim

    fuck tap water or at least filter out the fluoride, its only topically effective anydangway

  • Janet Camp

    While I agree wholeheartedly that we can all do better by avoiding many of the products of the beverage industry entirely, some of the health drinks are at least better than the pure sodas by way of reduced sugar and removal of the phosphoric acid. Looking at a can of pop with 160 calories vs a green tea drink of 90 calories, that sort of reduction can add up with people drinking multiple cans in a day. Even if we get none of the benefits of green tea, I would argue that we are still better off.

    It would be nice to think that everyone would begin cooking their own food from fresh ingredients and making their own drinks directly, but it is really not likely to happen. Convenience and pleasure will always win out over healthy so the wins that are made in getting people to eat and drink better have to be considered within this context of society and human behavior. They will also be incremental.