Sugar politics: a roundup of recent events
While I was visiting Cuba, formerly the largest supplier of sugar to the United States and now blocked from selling anything to us, I missed several stories about sugar. It’s time to catch up with them.
- The Mexican Nutritional Health Alliance announces a 6% reduction in purchase of sugary beverages since implementation of the peso-per-liter tax.
- Johns Hopkins issued a case study on Mexico’s soda tax, explaining why it worked.
- The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene has a new advertising campaign on the health risks of sugary drinks for children. You can view the ads here.
- Canada has decided against requiring labeling of added sugars, but instead plans to institute a Daily Value for total sugars of 100 grams and to group all sugars on the ingredient list. Note: 100 grams is 20% of total calories for people on 2000-calorie diets, and is twice what is recommended by most health authorities these days.
- The Washington Post says it’s great to get rid of trans fats, but what about sugars?
- The Washington Post also discusses the war between the Corn Refiners (makers of high fructose corn syrup) and sugar trade associations, this time over federal protections of the sugar industry. I’ve discussed sugar policy in previous posts (see this one, for example).
On this last item the Post explains:
While other crop subsidies have withered, Washington’s taste for sugar has been constant. The sugar program, which has existed in various forms since the 1930s, uses an elaborate system of import quotas, price floors and taxpayer-backed loans to prop up domestic growers, which number fewer than 4,500.
Sugar’s protected status is largely explained by the sophistication and clout of a small but wealthy interest group that includes beet farmers in the Upper Midwest, cane growers in the South and the politically connected Fanjul family of Florida, who control a substantial part of the world sugar market.
Attempts to get rid of the sugar program have been constant, at least since the 1970s when I first started teaching about it, but to no avail. Why not? Because outrageous as the program is, it only costs the average American $10 per year—not enough to generate widespread opposition, apparently.
The bottom line on all this: eating less sugar is always a good idea.