US vetoes any mention of soda taxes in WHO committee report on preventing noncommunicable (chronic) disease
The AP reports that the reason the WHO committee on preventing noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) did not recommend soda taxes is that the US representative vetoed the idea.
The Trump administration has torpedoed a plan to recommend higher taxes on sugary drinks, forcing a World Health Organization panel to back off the U.N. agency’s previous call for such taxes as a way to fight obesity, diabetes and other life-threatening conditions.
The move disappointed many public health experts but was enthusiastically welcomed by the International Food and Beverage Alliance — a group that represents companies including Coca-Cola, PepsiCo. and Unilever.
The WHO committee’s report appeared in The Lancet last week. About soda taxes, it said:
The Commissioners represented rich and diverse views and perspectives. There was broad agreement in most areas, but some views were conflicting and could not be resolved. As such, some recommendations, such as reducing sugar consumption through effective taxation on sugar-sweetened beverages and the accountability of the private sector, could not be reflected in this report, despite broad support from many Commissioners.
It did not include soda taxes in its tax recommendation:
Implement fiscal measures, including raising taxes on tobacco and alcohol, and consider evidence-based fiscal measures for other unhealthy products.
This omission is striking in view of WHO’s strong previous positions on the need to reduce NCDs as part of the agency’s Sustainable Development Goals for 2030, and on reducing sugars and taxing sodas as a means to achieve those goals:
- In 2015, WHO recommended that sugars be consumed at less than 10% of calories.
- In 2016, WHO recommended taxes on sugary drinks as a way to reduce sugar intake and prevent NCDs.
Again a US veto? Recall the infamous incident in 2003 when the US blocked the agency from recommending a reduction in sugar intake.
The US should not be holding WHO hostage to public health measures.
WHO should not be caving in to US threats.
NCDs are the major cause of worldwide death and disability and we need worldwide efforts to prevent them. This calls for cooperation, not blackmail.