by Marion Nestle
Aug 12 2016

Sugar politics: weekend roundup

I can hardly keep up with news about sugar these days.  Here are a bunch of items that I thought worth notice.

Healthy Food America has produced a Sugar Advocacy Toolkit

Now is the time to act. Scientific evidence of the harm caused by added sugars is strong and growing. News stories have begun sounding the alarm. Some Americans are getting the message that sugar is unhealthy and are cutting back, but consumption remains high along with health impacts associated with overconsumption.

Corporate Europe Observatory has produced a report, A Spoonful of Sugar: How the food lobby fights sugar regulation in the EU.  Here’s how:

  • Lobbies for trade treaties that help undermine or overturn food regulations
  • Challenges regulation through legal threats, complaints, and deregulation drives
  • Works towards corporate capture of regulatory bodies
  • Emphasizes physical activity to avoid legislative action
  • Sponsors scientific research
  • Champions weak voluntary schemes
  • Lobbies aggressively and spends huge sums to combat effective regulation

Good news: A textual analysis of sugar industry influence on the World Health Organization’s 2015 sugars intake guideline shows that WHO mostly resisted the lobbying (here’s the entire paper).

There was little change between draft and final versions of the WHO sugars intake guideline 2015, following industry consultation. The main change was linked to emphasizing the low quality of the evidence on sugar’s adverse effects. Guideline development appeared relatively resistant to industry influence at the stakeholder consultation stage.

Britain’s Food and Drink Federation issued reformulation guidelines for small- and medium-sized businesses on how to reduce sugar and label sugars.

How’s this for a headline: Food lobby rigs EU sugar laws while obesity and diabetes spiral out of control.

Another headline: Big Sugar’s Fanjul Family Hosting Miami Fundraisers for Both Clinton and Trump This Year [The Fanjuls have long been equal opportunity funders]

From The Hagstrom Report

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Michael Conaway, R-Texas, Senate Agriculture Committee ranking member Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and Alexis Taylor, a high ranking Agriculture Department official, all committed themselves to the future of the U.S. sugar program today as industry officials and analysts talked about the struggles that beet producers and cane refiners are experiencing in the midst of imports from Mexico and the controversy surrounding genetically modified foods [Comment: recall that US sugar prices are higher than world market prices because of tariffs and quotas, and that every attempt to drop these measures has failed under lobbying pressures].

KIND bars are the first to label added sugars.  

As Grub Street puts it, all food companies are scrambling to reduce their sugars.

It will still be two years before nutrition labels have to get seriously transparent about their sugar content, yet it looks like the countdown is already starting to make Big Food squirm. Added sugar is both omnipresent in Americans’ diets and actively loathed for that very reason. So in May, when the FDA announced new labels had to disclose the number of grams, experts’ hunch was that many products were about to suddenly become a lot less sweet. This prediction was pretty spot-on, if Bloomberg’s new report on Kind is any indication: The snack-bar-maker just became the first company to start voluntarily labeling sugar content, and — surprise, surprise — there’s a lot less sugar in there.

Kind has launched a new website detailing nutrition information

Enough for now.  More to come.  Have a sweet weekend.