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The soda industry in the U.S. suffered a historical loss the other day. For the first time, a soda tax is imposed!
Berkeley, California, became the first city to vote, with great majority, in favor of introducing a tax that will make sodas noticeably more expensive:
This could be viewed as an insignificant event – Berkeley is a city of just 80,000 people, so who cares? But symbolically it’s a big thing. Similar proposals have on some 20 occasions been voted down in different cities in the U.S., after huge economic countermeasures from the soda industry, in the form of advertising.
Just in little Berkeley, the soda industry spent around 2 million dollars on TV and other advertisements to oppose the proposal. That’s almost $26 per person: during the Swedish election campaign in 2014, all the Swedish political parties combined spent $4.70 per person on advertisements. Per person, the soda industry spent five times more in Berkeley than all of the Swedish parties combined in an election year.
They must have bought up every single advertisement spot available. And yet they lost.
Now, experts think more cities in the U.S. will follow Berkeley’s example. And Mexico has already introduced a soda tax.
Some people think that there should be no taxes on anything, not even tobacco. Personally I disagree, but what I think doesn’t matter. What matters is that if we’re ok with taxing tobacco for health reasons we should certainly tax soda too.
Here’s another nutritional advice train wreck. The Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation allows their “Health Check” symbol to be put on candy. Why? As far as I can tell because the candy uses the word “fruit” in its name.
Putting the spotlight on this insanity is one of my heroes, dr Yoni Freedhoff. Here are two recent posts from his blog:
- The Heart and Stroke Foundation Doubles Down On Its Endorsement of Candy as Fruit
- The Heart and Stroke Foundation Needs International Experts To Tell Them Not to Sell Candy?
The Heart and Lung Foundation put out a press release saying that they are trying to develop a “comprehensive position” on sugar and will be soliciting international experts to help out. Meanwhile they’ll keep recommending candy.
Here’s dr Freedhoff’s comment:
So what exactly do the Heart and Stroke Foundation’s Health Check Registered Dietitians do for the Foundation if Health Check needs to ask for outside help to determine whether or not endorsing fruit juice gummis that are themselves 80% sugar by weight with virtually no associated nutrition is a good idea?
I guess what I’m trying to say is that if your organization needs international experts to tell them selling candy as a health food is a bad idea, perhaps you might want to consider the possibility that there’s something wrong with your organization’s own expertise.
I’d rephrase that last message for the Heart and Stroke Foundation:
If your organization believes that selling candy as a health food is OK, then your organization has zero credibility.
Bottom line: choose. You can have the candy money or you can have credibility. You can’t have both.
Can we prevent breast cancer – a disease for which the risk increases with overweight – by contributing to an increased consumption of cinnamon buns and fancy pastries in the midst of an obesity epidemic?
The ill-conceived and dishonest sponsorship by the Pink Ribbon and the Swedish Cancer Society drew criticism in Swedish local paper Corren from myself, among others:
- Corren: Seal of Approval on Goodies Macabre (Google translated from Swedish)
The Swedish Cancer Society responds by trying to shift the blame:
- Corren: The Swedish Cancer Society: We Have a Tradition of Cinnamon Buns in Sweden (Google translated from Swedish)
So, people who gain weight from eating cinnamon buns and pastry, thus increasing their risk of getting cancer, only have themselves to blame. Don’t blame the Cancer Society! They only, embarrassingly enough, happen to have their trade mark in advertisements for sweet baked goods. Apparently, they don’t accept any responsibility for the consequences.
This is how powerful Big Sugar is. Mexico is debating a soda tax, which makes total sense in the world’s most obese country. However, only anti-soda tax ads are seen on TV.
The biggest TV networks have refused to run pro-soda tax ads, so they won’t upset their best clients. I wonder if this means that their news programs are affected too. My guess: certainly.
Bye bye informed choice. Coca Cola and friends are buying media control in the most obese country on Earth.
The food industry has promised to voluntarily stop advertising unhealthy junk food to children. And according to industry-sponsored reports they do live up to these promises.
A new independent scientific review show something completely different: Children are still the targets of lots of advertising. Independent surveys in Europe, Asia, Australia and North America showed little change in the last five years, despite industry’s assurances that things would improve. Here’s comments from the senior author of the study:
Self-regulation simply does not work in a highly competitive marketplace. Asking the companies to restrict their own marketing is like asking a burglar to fix the locks on your front door. They will say you are protected, but you are not.
So what could work? The three things that Big Junk Food fear the most:
- Smarter, better-informed citizens
- Government intervention
Let’s face it: The industry will continue to fight on all three fronts. E.g. by trying to fool & confuse the public á la Coca Cola or spending millions on lobbyists to stop any regulation. Lawsuits may be their biggest vulnerability. But they will fight on all fronts. In a “highly competitive marketplace” they have no other choice.
We should stop expecting the burglar to fix our locks. Yes you too, Michelle Obama.
Sometimes, marketing enables a pickpocket to steal a wallet–and be thanked for it…
Last year, just one of the big fast food companies made more than $1,300,000,000 in profit (billion with a ‘b’). They’ve also paid their CEO nearly $200 million in salary in the last five years. Sometimes, a big profit is the sign that you’re doing something right, creating real value for people able to pay. Sometimes, though, it means you’re exploiting a weakness in the system.
This is ugly. Coca Cola is trying desperately to become part of the “solution” to obesity. It’s like Marlboro trying to look like the solution to lung cancer. The latest ploy? Coca Cola is sponsoring a Brazilian conference on obesity and metabolic syndrome.
Now, I don’t blame Coca Cola. I’m sure this is a nice move and well worth the investment. It’s going to make the shareholders happy.
I do blame the conference organizers however. They are either too greedy or simply uninformed. Either way, it looks bad. It makes the entire conference smell.
The organizers are asking for comments on their site. I added one and according to Google Translate the answer was: “Your comment has been successfully received.
Will soon be published in this space.”
Somehow I doubt it will be published, but at least someone is reading it.
Add your comment here (press “leave your comment, opinion or suggestion” in left margin)
Here’s a photo from a symposium for dietitians. It is not a joke.
This is why you can’t trust weight loss advice from a dietitian. He or she may have been trained by The Coca Cola Company. The largest professional association of dietitians in America have sold out to the junk food industry, as previously reported.
If you ask a dietitian for weight loss advice you’ll probably just be told to eat less calories. You can keep eating junk food once in a while and even drink soda, as long as you count the calories. This is exactly what the Coca Cola Company wants you to believe.
The truth is that this advice only suits masochists who enjoy being hungry forever. If you want to lose weight without hunger there is a better way to do it.
PS: There are of course plenty of smart dietitians too. The photo above is from the Facebook page of Dietitians for Professional Integrity. If you’re a dietitian and want to feel proud of your profession I recommend you support them.
Today giant cups of soda would have become illegal in New York. But at the last minute the ban was stopped by a judge. It’s not very far-fetched to believe that the soda industry had something to do with it. They have burned millions of dollars in advertising and lobbying against the proposal. They have also hired some of the highest-paid lawyers in the US to try to stop it.
Why the panic? The soda industry makes most of their profits from “heavy users”, people drinking enormous amounts of soda every day (ruining their health). People who are addicted are profitable. And the soda industry wants no obstacles to get more people addicted.
Now this latest decision will be appealed and the battle goes on. We know how it will end. We’ve seen this movie before, with the tobacco industry in a lead role.
Once people smoked on the streets and in the restaurants of New York, but no more. Getting rid of insane soda cups is likely to do even more for people’s health. The question is just how long it will take.
What do you think?
PS: I know libertarians are allergic to any regulation. Fair enough. Unfortunately this time they are Big Sugar’s little helpers.
This is, unbelievably, not a joke. This is how sick our world is. Recently a report came out on how the largest professional association of dietitians in the US has sold out to Coca Cola and Pepsico among other junk food companies, allowing them to buy enormous influence over the continuing education of dietitians. And here’s a shocking example of what the food industry gets in return.
A dietitian shared this example of a “shameful” webinar she was just invited to. Check it out. It’s The Coca Cola Company’s Beverage Institute For Health & Wellness that will teach dietitians about “Heart Healthy Lifestyle Counseling”!
It’s a bit of a mystery. What is The Coca Cola Company doing offering professional health education? Is that really what the company is about?
I’ll tell you what Coca Cola wants to teach the dietitians: It’s all about a balanced lifestyle. Sugar can be consumed as part of a balanced heart healthy diet. It’s all about calories anyway. And don’t believe anyone saying anything else! Oh yeah, and the most important thing is to exercise enough.
So when your dietitian uses those arguments, he or she might have been educated by Coca Cola.
The truth is that the more added sugar you get in your diet the more unbalanced it is. Sugar is consumed in vast excess by a large majority of the population today. And the more sugar you eat or drink the more calories you are likely to want. Consuming excess sugar makes you hungrier, then obese, then diabetic, then it gives you heart disease.
Unfortunately your dietitian might tell you a completely different story.
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