by Marion Nestle

Search results: Coca Cola

Oct 9 2010

Reprint from Civil Eats: Andy Fisher on Food Stamps vs. sodas

The most thoughtful comments I’ve seen on the proposal to block food stamp recipients from buying sodas come from Andy Fisher’s post on Civil Eats.

Mr. Fisher is currently a Kellogg Food and Society Fellow with the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy in Minneapolis.  He is the Co-Founder/Executive Director of the Community Food Security Coalition (CFSC).

I have added the red-highlighted emphases:

Banning Soda for Food Stamps’ Recipients Raises Tough Questions

October 8th, 2010  By Andy Fisher

On Thursday, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that he had asked the US Department of Agriculture to allow the city to exempt soda from the permitted list of items its 1.7 million food stamp recipients can purchase with their benefits. This ban would last for two years, enough time to assess its effects and determine whether the ban should be continued on a permanent basis. New York City food stamp recipients spend an estimated $75 million to $135 million of their $2.7 billion in food stamps annually on soda, according to AP.

Anti-hunger and public health advocates at odds over proposal

Public health advocates contend the obesity epidemic is costing the US hundreds of billions of dollars per year in increased health care costs, and sugar sweetened drinks are a major factor.   They correctly note that low income persons tend to have higher rates of diet related diseases than the general public: poor New Yorkers have twice the rate of adult-onset diabetes than compared to the wealthiest. Mayor Bloomberg noted, “Sugar-sweetened drinks are not worth the cost to our health, and government shouldn’t be promoting or subsidizing them.”

On the other hand, anti-hunger advocates argue that food stamp recipients should have the same freedom of choice at the supermarket checkout counter as any middle class person. Exercising that freedom is a matter of personal dignity that the poor all too often are not afforded. Restricting soda is the first step in a slippery slope toward further demeaning regulations on what food stamp recipients can buy.  They correctly point out that poor people often can’t afford produce, as nutritious foods tend to be more expensive per calorie than less healthy food.

The anti-hunger community is correct that historically, as a nation, we have treated the poor paternalistically. American social, educational and health policy is littered with countless examples of this failed approach. Regulating what food stamp recipients can and can’t buy with their benefits puts forth the message that they are not capable of making good decisions, and the government needs to set forth boundaries to protect them from their own poor choices. To the contrary, some studies have shown that food stamp recipients actually buy more nutritious food per dollar than non-food stamp recipients.

Anti-hunger advocates are also right that poor people typically can’t afford nutritious foods. Highly processed foods, such as ramen, fill up a belly more cheaply than broccoli and whole wheat pasta.  In our food system, high calorie foods with low nutritional value are cheaper than nutrient dense foods. For example, a 12 pack of 12 ounce cans of Coke (144 oz) at Kroger’s costs $2.79 on sale, while a half gallon (64 ounces) of Minute Maid orange juice (also a Coca Cola Inc. product) is $2.49. The bad choice is the cheap choice.

On the other hand, public health groups are dead-on accurate that it is irresponsible public policy to be subsidizing with tax dollars the purchase of unhealthy products that will burden society with increased health care costs in the future.  As a nation, we’re subsidizing soda companies $4 billion annually through the food stamp program. In return, decades later, the public will be stiffed with the hospital bill for billions of dollars more for extra health care costs from these poor dietary choices.

Thorny issue raises questions

Why are anti-hunger advocates in the absurdly precarious position of protecting the right of poor people to drink soda? Do I have a right as an American to poison myself with “soft” drinks that can dissolve the rust off a car? Does it matter whether I use my own money or tax dollars?  Should freedom of choice apply to products of marginal utility if not harmful products?

Why does it cost Coca-Cola more to produce a half-gallon of orange juice than a half gallon of Coke? How do we reverse this situation, such that healthful products are more affordable and unhealthy products are more costly?

Are food stamps an income support program- or as the program’s new name indicates, a Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program? If it is a “supplemental nutrition” program, then shouldn’t USDA define which products are nutritious based on Institute of Medicine standards, and limit purchases to these products? USDA does this with the Women Infants and Children (WIC) program, which is widely touted for saving billions in health care costs.

If food stamps are an income support program, and anti-hunger advocates want to maximize poor people’s freedom of choice, then why shouldn’t food stamps be distributed as cash rather than as a debit card good for food purchases? Doesn’t receiving cash maximize a person’s dignity as it bestows trust upon that person that he or she will make the right choice with their money?  Would food stamps not then become a welfare program, and be subject to the negative public perception of welfare?

The real story behind food stamps is that it is neither a nutrition program nor an income support program. It is a massive subsidy for the food retailers, grocery manufacturers, and industrial growers. That is why commodity groups, the Grocery Manufacturers of America and the Food Marketing Institute all line up behind the food stamp program every five years when the Farm Bill is being debated. They know the extra buying power food stamps provides to low income Americans will end up in their pockets.

In their noble effort to reduce human suffering and to improve the livelihood of the 41 million Americans on food stamps, anti-hunger advocates are caught in an ever-tightening bind. They frame food stamps as a nutrition program, because a nutrition program has more public support and more powerful allies in Congress than a welfare or income support program. Yet, burgeoning rates of chronic diseases and the growing presence of the public health community as a player in federal food and farm policy, translates into increased accountability for the nutritional impact of the food stamp program.

What boat are both camps missing?

There is one very important point neither the anti-hunger nor the public health advocates are making. Our tax dollars, especially the $80-90 billion spent annually on federal food programs, are a powerful force in shaping the food system. Food stamps, like school meals and WIC, should be the cornerstone of a food system that is grounded in principles of environmental sustainability, social justice, and health. Directed toward the small farm economy, community-oriented retailers, brokers, and processors, even a modest percentage of these funds could ignite a transformation of our food system.

Consider this. While nationally food stamp recipients are spending $4 BILLION per year on soda, in 2009, only $4 MILLION of food stamps were redeemed at farmers markets. This difference is shaped by the fact that USDA has not equipped farmers markets with free debit card terminals (which are needed to accept food stamp benefits), and prohibited federal nutrition education programs to promote farmers markets. Does this mean the Department of Agriculture values soft drinks one thousand times more than farmers markets?

Mayor Bloomberg has proposed only half the solution. USDA should grant him the waiver he requests if and only if New York City agrees to redirect the $75-$135 million that would have otherwise been spent on soda to programs that encourage food stamp recipients to purchase locally grown foods at farmers markets, community supported agriculture farms, and other community-oriented venues.

Oct 29 2009

Family doctors resign from AAFP over Coke partnership

Yesterday, 20 family physicians in Contra Costa County, California, ripped up their membership cards in the American Academy of Family Physicians in protest over the AAFP’s partnership with Coca-Cola.

coke_1

The director of the Contra Costa Department of Health Services, Dr. William Walker, announced that he was resigning his 25-year membership in AAFP.  In his statement, Dr. Walker said:

…I am appalled and ashamed of this partnership between Coca-Cola and the American Academy of Family Physicians. How can any organization that claims to promote public health join forces with a company that promotes products that put our children at risk for obesity, heart disease and early death.

…The AAFP is supposed to be an organization that works to protect the health of children not put them at risk. Their decision to take soda money is all the more unconscionable because, unlike doctors in the 40s, they well know the negative health impact of soda. There is no shortage of documentation that soda is a major contributor to our nation’s obesity epidemic.

…Let me be clear about something: as disappointed as I am with the American Academy of Family Physicians for being duped into thinking that Coca Cola wants to help promote health, the real problem here is our children are being put at risk.

Companies like Coca Cola are polluting our communities with deceptive advertising promoting products that put our children’s health at risk.

…as a family practice doctor and the Health Officer for Contra Costa, I do have a prescription for every parent, teacher, community leader and student:

Look beyond the glitzy advertising that makes you think pouring liquid containing sugar into your body is healthy. Read the label. Look at the ingredients. I’m not suggesting that you boycott sugared drinks, but please make an informed decision about what you are consuming.

I’m calling on every city and neighborhood in our County to fight back against the industry that pushes these harmful products. I ask the American Academy of Family Physicians to end this unhealthy partnership and to join us in leading this important campaign to take back the health of our residents and end the obesity epidemic.

Strong words, indeed.  I hope that the AAFP – and other health and nutrition organizations that might consider food industry partnerships – pay close attention to these words.

* The event was covered in the Contra Costa Times. The Health Department’s website includes the press release and also a video and podcast.

Addendum:

Dr. Wendel Brunner, PhD, MD, Director of Public Health in the Contra Costa Department of Health Services has given me permission to post excerpts from his letter to a representative of the California Association of Family Physicians who had asked for more information about the protest:

“The epidemic of obesity is the greatest public health and clinical medicine issue of our time, and will lead to untold disease, shortened life spans, and medical cost. That epidemic took off rapidly in the 80’s. While genes and personal choices do have an impact on obesity, only profound environmental changes could lead to such a rapid development of the epidemic, and it will only be stopped by policy development and environmental and norm change. We need to create an environment that supports people in making good choices for themselves and their families.

One of the best choices families can make is to pretty much eliminate sweetened beverages. And the soda industry doesn’t want that to happen, so they are looking for credible groups who will say that drinking soda is OK for your health. But you know all that already, which makes this even more frustrating.

I am an old county doctor, but I still believe that physicians have a responsibility to advocate for their patients and fight to protect their health, and to first of all, do no harm. I am truly gratified to see that our younger physicians in Contra Costa have those same values too. The responsibility of a physician to their patient is a sacred trust; physicians should never sell out their patients’ health and well-being for a price, not even one “in the mid six figures”.

The AAFP needs to change their policy and thereby begin to redeem themselves. In the process, they would educate the country and do something valuable for the nations health, as well as for their own integrity. If they do not, they will continue an unfortunately long and sordid tradition of professionals and their organizations forgetting their purpose and their ethics and putting their narrow organizational financial interest above the interest of the public that they serve. Resigning membership seems to be the most effective way for physicians to provide a wake-up call to the AAFP, and at this point is the best thing a physician could do to benefit the organization.We anticipate that there will be more resignations as this story develops.

Everything cannot be blamed on the environment or peer pressures or economic factors; patients do have a personal responsibility to make good choices for their health and the health of their families. But physicians have the personal responsibility to make good choices too, and so do the professionals who work for them.

The AAFP and the individuals in it made a bad choice. They now have the responsibility to fix it.”

Dec 15 2022

PepsiCo’s massive employee layoffs: some thoughts

TODAY on Zoom: 11:00 a.m.  Register here.

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I’m always fascinated by the food industry’s rationale for massive layoffs.

PepsiCo, for example.

It is planning to lay off hundreds of workers (see Washington Post announcement, and Food Navigator discussion).

The Wall Street Journal report’s Pepsi’s rationale:
PepsiCo
 Inc. PEP -0.37% is laying off workers at the headquarters of its North American snacks and beverages divisions, a signal that corporate belt-tightening is extending beyond tech and media, according to people familiar with the matter and documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal…In a memo sent to staff that was viewed by the Journal, PepsiCo told employees that the layoffs were intended “to simplify the organization so we can operate more efficiently.”

PepsiCo reported a 12% increase in revenues last year.

Its global revenues came close to $80 billion in 2021.

PepsiCo Beverages North America’s operating profit has recently decreased by 10%,

primarily reflecting certain operating cost increases, including incremental transportation costs, a 37-percentage-point impact of higher commodity costs and higher advertising and marketing expenses. These impacts were partially offset by net revenue growth and productivity savings.

It paid its CEO $25,506,607 in 2021.  This is 500 times more than the median employee salary of $52,000.

That’s how the system works.

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Oct 25 2022

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Captured by Food Corporations

The advocacy group, U.S. Right to Know, sent out a press release to announce publication of an article in the British journal, Public Health Nutrition: The corporate capture of the nutrition profession in the USA: the case of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics [AND, formerly the American Dietetic Association] accepted millions of dollars from food, pharmaceutical and agribusiness companies, had policies to provide favors in return, and invested in ultra-processed food company stocks, according to a study published today in Public Health Nutrition…The study was produced by public health scholars and U.S. Right to Know, a nonprofit investigative public health group that obtained tens of thousands of pages of internal Academy documents through state public records requests.

I’ve been writing about corporate capture of AND (formerly the American Dietetic Association) for years (see below), but this study shocked even me, for two reasons.

  • AND holds stock in food companies making ultra-processed foods.

The documents show that the Academy and its foundation invested funds in ultra-processed food companies. The Academy’s investment portfolio in January 2015 included $244,036 in stock holdings in Nestle S.A. and $139,545 in PepsiCo. The Academy foundation’s investment portfolio in June 2013 included $209,472 in stock holdings in Nestle S.A and $125,682 in PepsiCo.

  • The list of food companies donating to AND is extraordinarily long; it goes on for pages.

The Academy accepted more than $15 million from corporate and organizational contributors in the years 2011 and 2013-2017. The Academy’s top contributors in 2011 and 2013-2017 were:

  • National Dairy Council $1,496,912
  • Conagra Inc. $1,414,058
  • Abbott Nutrition $1,246,389
  • Abbott Laboratories $824,110
  • Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Foundation: $801,261
  • PepsiCo Inc. $486,335
  • Coca-Cola Co. $477,577
  • Hershey Co. $368,032
  • General Mills Inc. $309,733
  • Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality $296,495
  • Aramark Co. $293,051
  • Unilever Best Foods $276,791
  • Kellogg USA $273,272

The Academy’s response: Inaccuracies in U.S. Right to Know Article

The report is disjointed, mostly opinion, emails taken out of context, picking and choosing items based on words out of Board reports, etc.

The Academy lists facts

  • One of the authors has strong financial ties to CrossFit, a staunch opponent to RDN licensure.
  • Less than 9% (12 out of 149) of named scholarships, awards and named research grants were established through industry. The funds that are established have input into scholarship criteria, which are approved by the Foundation’s Board. An independent review committee then reviews applications and selects recipients.
  • Less than 2% (32 out of 2,812) of donors to the Academy’s Second Century were industry donors.

Additional Academy facts

  • Fact: The Academy is NOT influenced by sponsorship money
  • Fact: Less than 3% of the Academy’s and the Foundation’s investments are in food companies.
  • Fact: The Academy has never changed a position at the request of sponsors.
  • Fact: Less than 9% of Academy funding comes from sponsorship.
  • Fact: The Foundation’s Fellows program allows participants to serve as catalysts for change and advancement in emerging areas of need for the evolving nutrition and dietetics profession.
  • Fact: The Academy and Foundation have always been committed to accountability through transparency and fiduciary responsibility.

Comment

I have been writing about the Academy’s ties with food companies for years.  See, for example,

In my book, I document how food companies exert influence through sponsorship of research and professional societies.  Typically, recipients of industry funding do not recognize the influence of sponsorship and deny it, as we see here.

If AND wants to be taken seriously as an organization devoted to public health, it needs to set strong guidelines for conflicts of interest and adhere to them.  At the moment, this organization gives the appearance of a public relations arm of the food industry.

The same can be said of the American Society of Nutrition, but that’s another story.

Resources

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Mar 30 2022

ILSI by any other name…

I received a press release announcing a June conference to be held by the Institute for the Advancement of Food and Nutrition Sciences.

I had never heard of it.  It says it “is a non-profit organization that catalyzes science for the benefit of public health” and that it “drives, funds, and leads actionable research and elevates food safety and nutritional sciences—all with the ultimate goal of advancing public health.”

That seemed pleasant, if vague, but I was still puzzled.  Nothing on the Institute’s website helped.

This took some digging, but I soon found a news release announcing its formation in February 2021: Leading Scientists Launch Institute for the Advancement of Food and Nutrition Sciences to Promote Collaborative Research:

Today marks the establishment of the Institute for the Advancement of Food and Nutrition Sciences (IAFNS), a 501(c)(3) organization focused on catalyzing science for the benefit of public health.

Previously known as the International Life Sciences Institute, North America, IAFNS is building on a proud heritage with a focus on actionable science that promotes nutrition, food safety and public health.

Aha!  ILSI,  The classic industry front group.

ILSI, you may recall, was formed by Coca-Cola.

Within the last few years, lots of articles have appeared describing its lobbying efforts on behalf of the food industry.  Some of these were so blatant that Mars withdrew from in in 2018 and Coca-Cola withdrew in 2021.

I’ve written about ILSI often over the years.  See, for example, this post about IlSI’s effort in China.  Or see this article about scientific integrity (or the lack thereof).

Could all the bad press have anything to do with the name change?

A leopard cannot change its spots, alas.

Mar 10 2022

The Ukraine War and food systems: items

The tragedy of the Ukraine War is beyond comprehension.  Like everything else, it affects food systems, and not just for the people caught up in it.

I’ve been collecting items, starting with Jose Andres @chefJoseAndres and World Central Kitchen @WCKitchen who are providing hundreds of thousands of meals to people fleeing from the Ukraine.

And then this one:

Why the silence?

  • “Unlike other chains, McDonald’s owns the vast majority of its 847 restaurants in Russia. According to a page for investors, Russia accounts for 9 percent of the company’s total revenues and 3 percent of its operating income.”
  • “Last year, Russia accounted for $3.4 billion, or more than 4 percent, of PepsiCo’s $79.4 billion in revenues.”

Other items are about what this war means for agricultural trade, food prices, and specific food businesses—especially pet food.

Here are the pet food items:

Feb 3 2022

The coming influx of hard soda

As if we don’t have enough trouble with alcohol in this country, it’s now being added to sodas.  In states that allow such things, expect to see them taking up more and more room in supermarket aisles.

The business press is interested in this trend; there is much money to be made on drinks of any kind.

See, for example, Bud Light to Launch Hard Soda.

Bud Light Seltzer Hard Soda will have no sugar or caffeine. Anheuser-Busch describes it as ‘light like a seltzer and bold like soda pop.’ Each can will contain 100 calories and 5% alcohol.

This comes in cola, cherry cola, orange and lemon-lime flavors.

Consumer demand has soared over the past few years for nonalcoholic seltzers such as LaCroix and alcoholic ones such as White Claw that are low on calories and offer just a hint of flavor. Now some consumers are migrating toward stronger flavors, industry experts say, and brewers are trying out new fizzy drinks.

This, then, is about market share.

Lots of other companies are getting into this act.

Given all that, what are we to make of this piece of news?

  • Alcohol and COVID-19: Good news for red wine drinkers, but blow for beer boozers?  People who consume red wine between one to more than five glasses a week had a 10 to 17% lower risk in contracting COVID-19, but beer drinkers had a heightened risk, according to a recent study…. Read more
  • Here’s the study: COVID-19 Risk Appears to Vary Across Different Alcoholic Beverages.
  • Here’s the caveat: Association does not equal causation.  Drinkers of red wine have different lifestyles than beer drinkers, perhaps?
  • And here are the study’s sensible conclusions:  The COVID-19 risk appears to vary across different alcoholic beverage subtypes, frequency, and amount…Consumption of beer and cider and spirits and heavy drinking are not recommended during the epidemics. Public health guidance should focus on reducing the risk of COVID-19 by advocating healthy lifestyle habits and preferential policies among consumers of beer and cider and spirits.

Amen.

 

Jan 3 2022

Conflicted review of the week: adopting the dietary guidelines

Let’s start 2022 off with a review sent to me by a reader who wishes to remain anonymous.

The review: Implementing the 2020–2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans: Recommendations for a path forward. Sanders, L. M., Allen, J. C., Blankenship, J., Decker, E. A., Christ-Erwin, M., Hentges, E. J., Jones, J. M., Mohamedshah, F. Y., Ohlhorst, S. D., Ruff, J., &Wegner, J. (2021). J Food Sci. 86:5087–5099.  https://doi.org/10.1111/1750-3841.15969

Method: Based on a workshop aimed at developing strategies to promote adoption of dietary guideline recommendations.

Workshop funding: a grant from USDA with contributions from the Institute of Food Technologists.

Conflicts of interest: Mary Christ-Erwin is President and Owner of MCE Food and Agriculture Consulting and received an honorarium from the grant for moderating the meeting and panel and roundtable discussions. Julie M. Jones is a Scientific Advisor to USA Rice, Grain Foods Foundation, and the Quality Carbohydrate Coalition. John Ruff is an Investment Committee Member for Sathguru Catalyser Advisors Private Limited, the Asset Management Company of Innovation in Food and Agriculture Fund (IFA Fund) that invests in innovation-driven growth enterprises in the Food and Agriculture sectors, based in India. He is reimbursed for meeting fees and expenses related to attending committee meetings but has no investments in the fund. Lisa M. Sanders [Note: First author who wrote original draft] is the owner of Cornerstone Nutrition, LLC, a consultancy which has received funding from Kellogg Company, PepsiCo, and The Coca-Cola Company. Dr Sanders receivedwriting fees fromthe grant for development of this manuscript. JillWegner is an employee of Nestle. Jonathan C. Allen, Jeanne Blankenship, Eric A. Decker, Eric J.Hentges, Farida Y. Mohamedshah, and Sarah D. Ohlhorst have no conflicts to declare.

Comment: This workshop reflects a food industry perspective on the dietary guidelines.  Some of its reocmmendations make sense.  Others raise eyebrows, or should.

  • The first recommendation: “Emphasize health benefits…gained through cooking at home.
  • My favorite recommendation: “Leverage the current interest in science to debunk myths about food processing by demonstrating the similarity of techniques used to make foods at home and at scale in food industry, to show how food processing can contribute to the solution.”

This review is an excellent example of why the food industry needs to firmly excluded from nutrition policy discussions (for details on why, see my book, Unsavory Truth).

My strongest criticism of the 2020 dietary guidelines is that they fail to say anything about the health benefits of reducing consumption of ultra-processed foods (the junk food category strongly associated with excessive calorie intake, weight gain, and poor health).

Yet here we have a published review in a food science journal arguing for debunking “myths” about food processing.

They are not myths.  Evidence is abundant.

See, for example:

  • Monteiro CA, Cannon G, Levy RB, et al.  Ultra-processed foods: what they are and how to identify them.  Public Health Nutr; 2019;22(5):936–941.
  • Lawrence MA, Baker PI.  Ultra-processed food and adverse health outcomes.  BMJ. 2019 May 29;365:l2289.  doi: 10.1136/bmj.l2289.
  • Hall KD, Ayuketah A, Brychta R, et al. Ultra-processed diets cause excess calorie intake and weight gain: an inpatient randomized controlled trial of ad libitum food intake [errata in Cell Metab. 2019;30(1):226 and Cell Metab. 2020;32(4):690]. Cell Metab. 2019;30(1):67–77.e3. doi: 10.1016/j.cmet.2019.05.008.