As public health and nutrition advocates — and, not to mention, science — continue to point to the many public health ills that accompany the consumption of soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages, industry is on high alert.
Earlier this year, Scientific American blogger Patrick Mustain — who is also Communications Manager at the Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity, and Director of New Body Ethic — deconstructed the soda industry’s go-to talking points.
- “On January 27th, San Francisco news station KGO-TV ran a news story about a possible tax on sugary beverages. As expected, a few comments accompanied the story dismissing the proposed tax as ineffective and over-reaching. one of the commenters (Maureen from the American Beverage Association), invoked “science” to support her stance that focusing on soda to improve health is misguided. I felt that another voice needed to be heard in this conversation, one that provided insight about what research actually tells us about why targeting soda makes a lot of sense from a public health perspective”
- “One of the beverage industry supporters commented: “Get to the real problem, don’t pick on one food item – show your intelligence – not tunnel vision.” Let’s talk about tunnel vision for a moment. If beverage industry supporters would look around, they might notice that a sweetened beverage tax is not the ONLY tactic that public health promoters are using to reduce health burdens. Among many, many other things, public health encourages physical activity, improves parks, discourages junk food sold in schools, discourages food marketing aimed at children, provides increased access to fruits and vegetables, etc.”
- “You will hear about some studies that do not find that sugary beverage consumption is linked to weight gain and obesity. Chances are, those studies were funded by the beverage industry. A recent review found that studies that were funded by the beverage industry were significantly more likely to produce results in the beverage industry’s favor. Shocking.”
- “You will also hear from the beverage industry that people simply need to exercise more, and that the industry is doing a number of things to encourage this, like supporting Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign. People should indeed be regularly physically active, but again, research indicates that focusing solely on exercise will not lead to weight-loss in a meaningful way.”
- “You will hear again, as you did above, about the failure of the Arkansas beverage tax to reduce obesity. That tax was never meant to reduce obesity, only to raise revenue (which it did).”
- “For representatives from the beverage industry to ignore the billions of dollars spent specifically to undermine consumers’ self control, and then to turn around and blame consumers for being “irresponsible,” is at best naïve, or more likely, manipulative and disingenuous.”
- “Personal responsibility is certainly an important component of making healthy decisions. But relying only on individual decisions without addressing the environment in which those decisions are made will change nothing. One of the best, responsible, science-based decisions voters can make, is to hold the beverage industry responsible, and to make it harder for the industry to continue to be the number-one source of diabetes-causing sugar in Americans’ diets.”
What is particularly disturbing to us is that the soda industry’s talking points mentioned above are often presented in webinars which have been approved by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics for continuing education credits for dietitians. No bueno.