Earlier this week, the Let’s Move campaign launched “Drink Up!”, a campaign that encourages Americans to drink more water. Sounds great, right? Yes — until you scratch below the surface and see Big Soda’s influence and co-optation.
This situation is very reminiscent of how the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ messaging has been watered down and rendered toothless as a result of Big Food’s partnership and infiltration. The parallels are staggering, really.
Some highlights from James Hamblin’s coverage in The Atlantic:
- “Sam Kass joined the White House via the kitchen staff in 2009, when he took job as Assistant Chef. He is now Senior Policy Advisor for Nutrition Policy [again, possibly sic; seems redundant]. He is also Executive Director of “Let’s Move!” Kass briefed members of the press yesterday, including me, about the launch of Drink Up.
- “How much water does Mrs. Obama drink on a daily basis?” As Kass put it, “Water is our original energy drink. It’s a really exciting, fun, and positive campaign that will inspire people to drink more water.”
- [One] reporter [asked]: Are we talking about replacing sugary drinks and sodas with water?” Lawrence Soler, president and CEO of Partnership for a Healthier America, fielded that one. “It’s less a public health campaign than a campaign to encourage drinking more water. To that end, we’re being completely positive. Only encouraging people to drink water; not being negative about other drinks. “
- I know we’re just trying to “keep things positive,” but missing the opportunity to use this campaign’s massive platform to clearly talk down soda or do something otherwise more productive is lamentable. Public health campaigns of this magnitude don’t come around every day. This one squanders both money and precious celebrity Twitter endorsements. Keeping things positive and making an important point are not mutually exclusive, you fools.”
Marion Nestle’s take:
“Let me be absolutely clear: I am totally in favor of encouraging kids to drink water.
- Water deficiency is not a public health problem in the United States. Childhood obesity is the problem.
- Drinking water will only help to counter childhood obesity if it substitutes for sugary sodas.
- Bottled water companies such as Dasani (owned by Coca-Cola) and Aquafina (PepsiCo), and their trade group The American Beverage Association (ABA), are the main supporters of this initiative.
- This makes the message sounds like “drink bottled water,” without much attention to environmental implications.”
Isn’t drinking water better than drinking soda? Of course it is.
But this campaign could have clarified the issues a bit better.”
This is the exact same issue the Academy is dealing with, and it’s why we urge our colleagues who state that Coca-Cola and PepsiCo are acceptable partners due to their bottled water products to reconsider their stance. “Positive messaging” should not get in the way of delivering vital information the American public needs to hear.