In his latest post for Scientific American‘s Food Matters blog, Patrick Mustain examines how the soda industry has ingratiated itself with various US mayors to stave off regulation and criticism (in the same way it has ingratiated itself with health organizations like the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics).
- “At its 76th annual meeting in 2008, the U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM) adopted a resolution in support of increased resources for obesity prevention, which made a strong case for reducing sugary drink consumption, due to its contribution to obesity in America.”
- The 2008 document described the issue of obesity and its associated health problems, especially among children. The resolution cited a 500 percent increase in sugar-sweetened beverage (SSB) consumption over the last half century, and specifically pointed to “substantial scientific evidence, including epidemiologic and experimental studies [that] supports a causal relationship between the consumption of calorically-sweetened beverages and obesity and overweight.”
- “In 2010 the U.S. Mayors online Newspaper featured an article describing a number of mayors’ considerations of “soda taxes” to reduce obesity, and increase public health resources.”
- “The next year, according to a source at USCM, the American Beverage Association approached the Conference and became a “platinum member” of the Mayors Business Council. In June 2011, the USCM announced a childhood obesity prevention program in partnership with the ABA. The ABA pledged $3 million over three years, which would be split among six cities each year.”
- “The application instructions for the grants offer two options for specific priority areas to be addressed: Increasing access to physical activity for children and youth, and improving access to fresh fruits and vegetables. There is no mention in the application of decreasing consumption of calorically sweetened beverages, fast food, or high calorie snacks, which are all specifically cited in the 2008 USCM resolution as contributors to the nation’s obesity epidemic.”
- “The beverage industry seems to be obsessed with physical activity, as evident from the recent spate of stories about Coca-Cola funding studies that point the blame for obesity at caloric expenditure, rather than caloric intake. The science overwhelmingly does not support this.”
- “The American Public Health Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, The Institute of Medicine, and many other health and public policy organizations recommend reducing SSB consumption as one of the best ways to prevent obesity, and improve public health. Many of these groups also endorse an SSB tax as an effective means to reduce consumption, and/or to raise much-needed revenue for obesity prevention programs.”
Note the absence of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics among that list of health organizations. AND has largely remained silent on issues relating to regulation of sugar-sweetened beverages, and even its recommendations to drink less soda take a backseat to industry-friendly “all foods fit” and “there are no good or bad foods” messaging.
- “We can’t know for sure that the ABA decided to start giving money to the USCM directly in response to the Conference’s growing interest towards sugary drinks, but it does match a pattern of beverage industry money appearing in places where soda taxes are being discussed. The ABA grants are reminiscent of Coca-Cola’s $10 million gift to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, when that city was considering a tax on sugary drinks.”