Watch the Ecology Center’s video: Berkeley vs. Big Soda, and learn how Berkeley voters won a soda tax.
Yes you can do this at home. Do it in your town!
Watch the Ecology Center’s video: Berkeley vs. Big Soda, and learn how Berkeley voters won a soda tax.
Yes you can do this at home. Do it in your town!
One of the newsletters I subscribe to, BeverageDaily.com, has a special edition—a collection of its articles—on what the industry is doing to address its biggest problem: reducing sugar.
Health and wellness is at the forefront of consumers’ minds, and sugar gets plenty of bad press. Obesity is as big a concern as ever, and soft drinks are in the firing line.
What is the beverage industry doing to reduce calories? How are market leaders reformulating and revamping their portfolios; and what healthier brands are appearing?
From alternative sweeteners to packaging sizes, we look at what the industry is doing to cut calories – and how well these initiatives are working.
From reformulation to nutritional labeling, the non-alcoholic beverage industry has adopted a variety of strategies to reduce the calorie content of drinks. We look at how different strategies from around the world are being implemented. .. Read
You can see why the industry has a problem. Sugar tastes good. These other things not so much.
Wonder of wonders, the UK’s Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, has put a soda tax into his new budget initiative (see BBC account, the video and text of Osborne’s speech, and the Treasury department’s fact sheet on the soda tax).
Here’s how the tax is supposed to work:
Osborne says the tax will bring in £520 million ($732 million) in the first year, and he intends to use it to fund more sports in schools.
But it goes into effect in April 2018. This is to give the industry time to reformulate products with less sugar. But—the delay also gives the industry ample time to block the tax.
Public Health England supports the tax (see statement).
The makers of artificial and alternative sweeteners think this will be a win for them.
Will the tax help reduce obesity? On its own, that would be asking a lot.
Jamie Oliver, the British chef who favors the tax, says of course it won’t work on its own. It needs to be accompanied by six additional actions (food labels, better school food, curbs on marketing to kids, etc.).
Why are soda companies so worried about this? It could be catching.
Will the UK tax stick? Watch Big Soda pull out every stop on this one.
And think about what they are doing to fight soda taxes when you read or hear that soda companies want to be part of the solution to obesity.
Yesterday, I received this ALERT from health advocates in Mexico:
Big Soda negotiates behind doors with PRI to reduce Mexican SSB tax to 5% for drinks with 5 grams of added sugars per 100ml– Public health advocates denounce conflict of interest and speak out in defense of the tax
Yesterday Mexico’s Congressional Finance Committee proposed and voted in favor of an alarming measure to reduce the rate of the current 10% sugar-sweetened beverage tax to 5% on products with 5 grams of added sugar or less per 100 milliliters. The measure was pushed through committee vote with a reservation from only one political party and moves on to a vote in the lower house within the next 24-48 hours. Beverages with more than 5 grams of added sugar per 100 milliliters would continue to be taxed at 10% (1 peso per liter).
A columnist in one of Mexico’s most prominent dailies indicates that this negotiation between the FEMSA Coca-Cola bottling company and the PRI political party (current administration and majority vote holder in Congress and Senate) came about after attempts at a food and beverage industry negotiation with the PRI, seeking to reduce Mexico’s SSB and snack taxes. The columnist says Bimbo (&the food industry) was eventually excluded from this negotiation to focus on an attainable goal of reducing the SSB tax. (See column in Spanish: http://www.dineroenimagen.com/2015-10-19/63221 )
After several recent press conferences and an act in Congress “to trap” industry lobby mosquitos (Oct 6), continuing to call for an increase to a 20% SSB tax in accordance with national and international expert recommendations, and warning the public and decision makers of industry lobby, today civil society advocates –the Nutritional Health Alliance and ContraPESO– published a full page ad in Mexico’s most important daily asking whether legislators are on the side of public health or soda industry interests and calling on them not to cede to the industry lobby.
In the ad (see translation below and image attached), advocates warn that the most currently consumed 600 ml sugary drink on the Mexican market that has 5 grams of sugar per 100 milliliters contains 30 grams of sugar, above the WHO’s new guidelines for healthy living.
The language of the initiative to reduce the tax recognizes the SSB tax as a public health measure and the progress made, yet proceeds to reduce the tax far below the expert recommended rate, representating a setback to Mexico’s landmark tax.
FYI: Although Mexico’s lower house of Congress (Chamber of Deputies) holds authority over final budget decisions on income, Mexican legislative process entails that the budget package, once voted in the lower house, passes to the Senate for review and a vote, before passing back to the lower house for final approval.
TO SUPPORT MEXICAN ADVOCATES:
Tweet indignation over industry back-door negotiation and support for the current tax and need for an increased tax: #ImpuestoAlRefresco
Press interviews: contact email@example.com
If you or your association can emit a declaration or letter of support, send to:
PUBLIC HEALTH ADVOCATES IN MEXICO – Ad in Reforma newspapers OCT 19, 2015 – IN DEFENSE OF MEXICAN SSB TAX. Translation:
Members of Congress:
Have you let yourselves be bitten by the sugar-sweetened beverage lobby mosquitos?:
Do you serve soda industry or public health interests?
– The tax on sugar-sweetened beverages is 10% (1 peso) and not 20% (2 pesos) per liter as recommended by international and national organizations.
– The proposal to lower the tax to 5% to beverages with 5 grams or less of sugar per 100 milliliters acquiesces to soda industry interests, which are the parties mainly responsible for the collapse of public health in Mexico.
– The most consumed 600 milliliter drink in Mexico has 5 grams of sugar for every 100 milliliters contains 30 grams of sugar (6 spoonfuls).
– This surpasses the 25 grams (5 spoonfuls) that the World Health Organization establishes as a maximum amount of added sugars per day in order to preserve one’s health. (1)
– Sugar is not an essential nutrient and there is solid evidence showing that its consumption is harmful to health, contributing to overweight, obesity and caries, serious public health problems in Mexico.
Sugar-sweetened beverages kill more Mexicans a year than organized crime. (2)
Whose side are you on?
DO NOT GIVE IN TO INDUSTRY PRESSURE!
Show that you work to protect the public health of the Mexican population and not Big Soda’s profits.
We demand that the special tax be preserved and increased to 20% for ALL SUGAR-SWEETENED BEVERAGES, as recommended by international and national organizations.
Last week the Mexican Supreme Court passed down its judgment on a writ of unconstitutionality (amparo) filed against the soda tax that went into effect in January 2014.
This unanimous judgment:
Documents (in Spanish):
This was a big election for the food movement:
Hats off to Helena Bottemiller Evich of Politico ProAg who stayed up half the night to file her story at 3:00 a.m. As usual, she cuts right to the chase. Here’s her comment on the Berkeley win:
Voters approved Measure D, a penny-per-ounce tax, by a three-to-one margin after a bitter campaign battle, with the beverage industry spending more than $2.1 million to oppose the initiative. The pro-tax campaign was bolstered by more than $650,000 from former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
The vote for the tax in Berkeley was a whopping 75%–a clear, unambiguous win.
The vote in San Francisco passed the tax by a majority—54.5%—but a 2/3 vote was required because the measure specified where the funds would to.
And here’s some commentary
Xavier Morales, executive director of the Latino Coalition for a Healthy California, told me that entities across the state have just been waiting to hear what happens in Berkeley and SF to advance their own local plans for a tax, and that there are ongoing discussions at the state level regarding the feasibility of a soda tax bill to help reduce diabetes, heart disease and stroke. “Other cities in the Pacific Northwest have also been watching both San Francisco and Berkeley with great interest,” he said.
Sara Soka, campaign manager for Berkeley vs Big Soda (the Yes on D campaign)says:
What happens in Berkeley doesn’t stay in Berkeley…Berkeley’s public school system was one of the first to voluntarily desegregate in 1968. It’s led in public school food policy, smoke-free areas in restaurants and bars, curb cuts for wheelchairs. All these positive changes are now mainstream.
Michael Jacobson, director of Center for Science in the Public Interest, a long-time supporter of soda taxes, says:
Berkeley voters have shown it can be done. A community’s health can trump Big Soda’s insatiable appetite for profit…This is a historic victory for public health and a historic defeat for the increasingly disreputable soda industry. Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and the American Beverage Association can no longer count on spending their way to victory.
San Francisco’s Choose Health SF
This isn’t about one soda tax. This is about a national movement that was kicked off tonight, and we are proud to have raised the conversation about the health impacts of soda and sugary beverages, and exposed the beverage industry’s deceptive tactics.
GMO labeling and no-plant initiatives
At a cost estimated at more than $60 million, the GMO industry and its food industry friends managed to defeat labeling measures in Oregon and Colorado.
In Maui, voters passed an initiative to block cultivation of GMO materials on Maui, Molokai and Lanai until cleared by environmental and safety studies.
The Information Technology & Innovation Foundation released this statement quoting Val Giddings of the Biotechnology Industry Organization:
The effort was a misleading, fear-based campaign to put a “scarlet letter” on genetically modified foods. “We commend the citizens of Colorado for protecting the environmental benefits, food abundance and lower prices that have been delivered by seeds and crops improved through biotechnology.”
These have to do with representatives whose positions on food stamps are especially awful. The position of one, Florida Republican Steve Southerland, was so dreadful that he was singled out by Food Policy Action for targeting.
During discussions of the farm bill, Southerland led attempts to cut food stamps and force beneficiaries to work. Food Policy Action’s Tom Colicchio and Ken Cook issued a statement:
This is a big win for food advocates and Florida families. Congressman Southerland has repeatedly made policy choices that are harmful to families and small farmers. Today, we proved that voters care about food issues, and they will hold their elected officials accountable on Election Day.
New York City Coalition Against Hunger notes these election results:
It quotes executive director Joel Berg: “Cutting SNAP and other safety net programs is bad policy, bad morals, and, as last night’s results show, bad politics.”
Minimum Wage Laws
Voters in four red states (SD, AR, AK, NE) passed raises in the minimum wage by wide margins, even though they defeated Democratic candidates.
My comments on all of this
If you haven’t seen Nightline’s exposé of the soda industry’s tactics, now might be a good time to take a look.
Yesterday, the fabulous Representative Rosa DeLauro (Dem_CT) introduced the Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Tax Act of 2014 (SWEET Act). Here’s a quick summary of the bill. The SWEET Act (you have to love the name) would put an excise tax of one cent per teaspoon of sugars (a teaspoon is about 4 grams). The bill is clearly aimed at sugary drinks, which account for about half of total sugar intake. According to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines (page 29),
The tax ought to raise about $10 billion a year, and is earmarked for programs to combat soda-related disease. It also ought to further reduce consumption of sugary drinks, as is already happening in Mexico. If you would like to endorse this legislation, contact Kelly.Horton@mail.house.gov in Representative DeLauro’s office. References
Can money buy elections? Apparently so.
Yesterday’s election results indicate that the GMO-labeling initiative in Washington state and the soda tax initiative in Telluride, CO both failed.
According to USA Today, the defeat cost opponents $22 million. All of that—except $550—came from out of state.
The top five contributors were the Grocery Manufacturers Association, Monsanto, DuPont Pioneer, Dow AgroSciences and Bayer CropScience.
But the Grocery Manufacturers Association was required to list its contributors. The top five? PepsiCo, Nestlé (no relation), Coca-Cola, General Mills, ConAgra at about a million each when you add it all up.
USA Today reports:
Food industry ads claimed that the initiative would raise food prices. Labels would mislead consumers into thinking that products that contain genetically engineered ingredients are “somehow different, unsafe or unhealthy,” said Brian Kennedy of the Grocery Manufacturers Association, a food industry group based in Washington, D.C.
The Yes on 522 campaigns emphasized consumers right to know what’s in their food.
But PoliticoPro points out that because votes are mailed in, more than 600,000 votes may still be left to count.
The food and biotech industries used their considerable war chest to make ad buys across the state, pointing out all of the products that would not be covered under the measure — such as cheese, beer, restaurant food and even, they claimed, pet food — and pushing the message that the bill is misleading and would considerably raise food prices. They said the law would hurt Washington’s farm families.
As I told USA Today, sooner or later, one of these is going to pass. At some point the industry is going to get tired of pouring this kind of money into these campaigns and will beg for labeling, which is what should have happened in the first place.
Telluride is a small town, so the amounts are much smaller.
According to ProPolitico, the Colorado Beverage Association installed an onsite lobbyist to generate opposition to the measure through meetings and an Internet site.
The largest donors to the opposition campaign were a Texas billionaire who owns a second home in Telluride ($55,000), and the the local and national beverage associations. were the largest contributors to the anti-tax campaign, giving $20,000 and $55,000 respectively.
Taxes, of course, are never popular even when intended for public health purposes, as this one was.
Soda taxes too, will pass eventually.
Patience and fortitude.
Addition: Here’s the Washington State vote as of this morning.