by Marion Nestle

Currently browsing posts about: Soda Politics

Jul 2 2018

Big Soda strong-arms California: no more soda taxes for 12 years. Shame!

In 2017, Jennifer Pomeranz and Mark Pertschuck published an article in the American Journal of Public Health titled State Preemption: A Significant and Quiet Threat to Public Health in the United States.

How right they were.

Last week, California Governor Jerry Brown signed a law banning new soda tax initiatives in the state until 2030, thereby preempting local initiatives planned and in progress.

How did this happen?

Raw, overt power politics (my emphasis throughout).  The Sacramento Bee shows how it’s done.

The Hill explains that this bill was a compromise.

The measure was a last-minute compromise to stop an initiative circulated by the beverage industry that would make it more difficult to raise state and local taxes in California.  “Mayors from countless cities have called to voice their alarm and to strongly support the compromise which this bill represents,” Brown wrote in a signing message.

Big Soda’s tactic: use California’s ballot initiative process to put forth a measure requiring a two-thirds majority to pass any new tax legislation.  Brown and those mayors must have assumed it would pass (anything to prevent new taxes).  Brown said he would agree to a 12-year moratorium on new soda taxes if the soda industry would withdraw the measure.  It did, and he signed.

In explaining the so-called “compromise” (in quotes because this was blackmail), US News quotes state senator Scott Wiener (Dem-San Francisco):

This industry is aiming a nuclear weapon at government in California and saying, ‘If you don’t do what we want we are going to pull the trigger and you are not going to be able to fund basic government services.”

In other words, the beverage industry held the state hostage. Like the Sacramento Bee, I’d call this a shakedown.

The Sacramento Bee also called it extortion—a power play by the American Beverage Association that:

appears to be working as intended. As the deadline for signing the state budget approaches this week, a developing trailer bill attached to it would give Big Soda a 12-year ban on local soda taxes in exchange for dropping a ballot initiative that would threaten the finances of cities throughout California. Who says extortion doesn’t pay?

The New York Times explains the “stunning” preemption:

Now the beverage industry has a new approach. Instead of fighting the ordinances city by city, it is turning to states, trying to pass laws preventing any local governments from taxing their products.

The reactions have been fierce.

Nancy Brown, CEO of the American Heart Association says, “We’ve seen some cynical moves to protect profits, but this soda tax ban is a new low.”   The American Heart Association issued a statement:

The bill—a last-minute, backroom deal negotiated and written in secret by beverage industry lobbyists and their allies—is a significant step backwards in the ongoing effort to reduce overconsumption of sugary drinks.

“This is one of the worst pieces of legislation I have seen in more than 30 years spent fighting for better health for kids and families,” said Nancy Brown, CEO of the American Heart Association. “We could not be more disappointed to see this bill, taken straight from the tobacco industry playbook, pass.”

The LA Times said “Shame on California lawmakers for caving in to the soda industry.”

Salon explains:

There’s a lot at stake for America’s biggest soda companies. Carbonated soft drinks – such as Coke, Fanta, Sprite, and Fresca – make up two-thirds of Coca-Cola’s production, and U.S. soda sales earned the company more than $10 billion in 2015. And PepsiCo’s soda sales – including Pepsi, 7Up, and Mountain Dew – still account for one-quarter of the company’s $38 billion in North American sales, despite a shift toward healthier products. But soda consumption fell to its lowest point in 31 years in the U.S. in 2016, according to Fortune, and Coca-Cola concedes that sweetened beverage taxes “are hurting Coke’s business.”

I’ll end with this quote from the New York Times:

Bill Monning, the Senate majority leader, was one of a handful of Democrats who voted against the bill. He called its passage “unprecedented” and said it would stop cities and counties “from being able to take steps to protect the health of their residents”…“It’s a sad day for democracy in California,” he said. “But ever the optimist I think that the outrage of Big Soda blackmailing the state legislature and the people of California is going to boomerang.”

Let’s make sure that happens.

And while we are at it, don’t let this happen in your state.  If the soda industry threatens to mess with state elections, tell your representatives and governor to resist.  California public health advocates: keep the pressure on.  Advocate for bans on sodas everywhere you can: schools, hospitals, workplaces, government offices.  Expose what the industry is doing to protect its profits at the expense of public health.  Don’t give up.  Courage!

For the record, here’s where to find out more about this shameful episode.

Jun 4 2018

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:

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.

Shame.

Mar 6 2017

Food-Navigator-USA Special Edition on Beverages

Here is another one of FoodNavigator-USA’s Special Editions, meaning collections of its articles on specific topics written mostly from the perspective of food beverage companies.  This one is on trends in commercial beverages, and is highly relevant to food politics.

Special Edition: Beverage trendwatching

Few sections of the store are as dynamic as the beverage aisles. Meanwhile, the pressure to ‘clean up’ labels continues unabated. But how can we distinguish passing fads from sustainable trends? And who are the entrepreneurial companies driving innovation in this category?

Oct 19 2015

Industry (and other) reactions to Soda Politics

Friends and colleagues are asking me about reactions to Soda Politics: Taking on Big Soda (and Winning).

The book has only been out for a week or two, but here’s a report on the early returns.

I’ve posted the few reviews that have come in on the Soda Politics page.  Amazon has posted five reviews so far—all 5-star—and all from people I do not know personally.

But never mind all that.  What about the reaction of the soda industry?

This too is just starting.  The industry group, IFIC (International Food Information Council), did a Food Insight on the book.,  I’m guessing the reviewer didn’t read it very carefully, since she seems to have missed my deliberately cautious interpretation of the science.

The American Beverage Association issued a press release.  Since it is not yet online, I reproduce it here.press release issued by the American Beverage Association

This says:

BEVERAGE INDUSTRY COMMITTED TO LEADING ON PUBLIC HEALTH ISSUES

In response to the publication of “Soda Politics,” a book by New York University’s Marion Nestle, the American Beverage Association issued the following statement:

Statement
“The people who make up America’s beverage companies have a long history of engaging in thoughtful discussions and meaningful actions to address the public health issues of overweight and obesity.  By bringing stakeholders together and working with leaders like President Clinton and First Lady Michelle Obama, we are delivering real and significant results.  To support our voluntary efforts, we work hard to bring consumers the fact-based information and the beverage options they need to make the right choices for themselves and their families.  And we are always interested in new opportunities to make more meaningful changes to improve public health.  We welcome discussions with anyone from government, academia, or non-profits who are willing to partner and make a difference.”

The rest is about all the good things the industry is doing.

Read the book and decide for yourself!

Oct 5 2015

Soda Politics is published—today!

Today is the official publication date for Soda Politics.  This means it should now be available in bookstores and open for review and comment.  Cover for<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /> Soda Politics<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />

For more information, see the book page for it on this site.  There you will find the blurbs, reviews, media interviews, and the list of media resources—videos, audios, music, movies, commercials, and anti-commercials—that I ran across while working on the book.

Enjoy!

Sep 25 2015

Soda Politics: Taking on Big Soda (and Winning): Delicious!

Here’s a sweet conclusion to this week’s sugar theme (#5):

Capture

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How do bakeries do this?  I have no idea.

But this particular bakery at first refused to make the cake.

It worried about potential copyright violation (I’m not kidding).

Well, it’s too late to sue.  The evidence has been consumed.

Sep 11 2015

Soda Politics: The blurbs!

On Fridays, I often post books I’ve blurbed or liked.

Today, it’s my turn.  I can’t resist posting the blurbs for Soda Politics: Taking on Big Soda (and Winning).   

"Cover

The blurbs:

  • “The soda industry is a powerful economic operator. Economic power readily translates into political power. Soda Politics is exactly the kind of carefully-researched investigative reporting needed to open the eyes of the public and parliamentarians to the health hazards of what is, as the author rightly notes, essentially liquid candy in a bottle.” –Dr. Margaret Chan, Director-General, World Health Organization
  • “No book in history has so completely laid bare the soda scourge that touches every corner of the world. Marion Nestle shows how this happened, its impact on human health and well-being, who the players are, and, most importantly, what might be done. This is the right book at the right time.” –Dr. Kelly Brownell, Dean, Sanford School of Public Policy, Duke University
  • “Marion Nestle is one of the greatest muckrakers of our time, and what she does is vitally important-for our health, our environment, and for future generations. Here, she wages war against the soda titans with such piercing clarity and so many irrefutable truths that all other arguments crumble.” –Alice Waters, Founder and Proprietor of Chez Panisse
  • “Comprehensive and well-written, this book will help frame a thoughtful public policy debate about nutrition and the societal impacts and costs of obesity.” –Ann M. Veneman, Former US Secretary of Agriculture and Former Executive Director of UNICEF
  • “What happens when the food industry’s most insightful critic turns her sights on soda? This razor-sharp, fun to read, plan-of-battle for one of the greatest public health fights of our time. Big soda may have all the money, but those who would enter this fray, as we all should, now have their champion.” –Michael Moss, Author of Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us
  • “For decades, soda companies have amassed fortunes off drinks that are making us sick. It took someone like Marion Nestle to cut through the spin and uncover the high cost of cheap sodas.” –Robert Kenner, Director/Producer, Food Inc. and Merchants of Doubt
  • “Long recognized as an important and informed voice in our national and international discussions on nutrition and health, Marion Nestle has written another book that will keep us talking. With an impressive combination of scholarship and advocacy, Dr Nestle takes an unflinching look at the soda industry, its products and the impact on health. Soda Politics deserves the attention of the public and policy makers, and should make us all think more carefully about choices we can make to improve health and well-being.”–Margaret Hamburg, M.D., Former Commissioner, U.S. Food and Drug Administration 

The book officially comes out October 5, but Oxford University Press is already shipping it to preorders and Amazon starts shipping it next week.

Enjoy!

Sep 2 2015

Soda Politics: the first copy!

Soda Politics is out (almost)!  It ships to preorders next week!

Capture

Max Sinsheimer, my editor at Oxford University Press, just gave me this advance copy.

The official publication date is October 5, but copies should be widely available well before then.  Enjoy!

For information about it, click here.

Page 1 of 212