When it comes to criticism from the public health and nutrition sectors, industry’s go-to tactic is “deny, deflect, and blame someone else.”
Consider, for example, the issue of added sugars, which has industry on the defensive like never before.
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics sponsor General Mills has this to say on its “Breakfast and Kids” page:
“Kids who eat breakfast tend to perform better in school and have fewer disciplinary problems. Breakfast also tends to help kids stay alert.”
Fair enough, but since when is “breakfast” synonymous with Trix? We digress.
The page also displays a pie chart titled “Sources of total sugar” (based on National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey data), which shows that ready-to-eat cereals make up four percent of the sources of total sugar for children aged 4 to 12.
Note, however, that this pie chart is for total sugar, not added sugar. This is why milk and milk products come in second with 22 percent, while fruits and vegetables clock in third with 19 percent (as if eating a pear and a bowl of Froot Loops were no different).
Here is the important part: carbonated beverages and fruit drinks make up the largest slice of the pie with 24 percent. So, clearly, when it comes to sugar in the diets of American children and teenagers, sodas and fruit drinks lead the pack.
Now, let’s see what the American Beverage Association — Big Soda’s lobbying arm — has to say about this topic. They wouldn’t dare admit soda is a problem, would they?
Of course not. Their take:
“Myth: Beverages are the largest source of added sugars for children and teens.
Fact: According to CDC, food is actually the number one source of added sugars for children and teens.”
The American Beverage Association cites a National Cancer Institute analysis of government data which found that “calories from sugar-sweetened beverages including soft drinks, juice drinks, flavored waters and other beverages, make up just 7 percent of the calories in the average American’s diet. This means that 93 percent of our calories from other foods.”
Catch the misleading statement? The American Beverage Association is looking at total calories, not soda’s contribution to American’s sugar intake.
It’s a no-brainer that liquid calories will never be the main source of calories in a human diet, especially when they are compared to solid food as a general category.
Even if someone consuming a 2,000-calorie diet drank a whopping 700 calories of soda, the remaining 1300 would come from food, so liquid calories would “pale in comparison.”
Both of these are examples of industry spinning data to its liking.
In General Mills’ case, the fact that sweetened cereals that offer as much as 12 grams — one Tablespoon — of added sugar per serving represent 4 percent of American children and teens’ sugar intake does not mean these products are low in sugar. It means the avergae American child is consuming extremely high amounts of sugar. And, again, if the statistic were for *added* sugar, ready-to-eat cereal would make up a larger percentage.
For all of industry’s concern that the average American is “overwhelmed” with nutrition information, they sure contribute to public confusion in their attempt to deny that they are part of the problem.