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Maybe Paul Krugman is on to something

Notice that the American Beverage Association (ABA) attacked this proposal to help prevent kids from drinking soda. These guys have deep pockets and can buy votes in Congress. I think Krugman is a nut on most political stuff, but he is right on in terms of his assertion that corporate American interests and the health of the public are not aligned.

WASHINGTON (AFP) - Soda drinks are "liquid candy" for children who often guzzle up to three pops a day, a US science group warned, demanding cigarette-style health warnings on cans.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest warned that while adults seemed to be turning to diet soda drinks, children more often drank regular sodas than previously.

"What was once a rare treat in a small serving is now served up morning, noon and night, virtually everywhere Americans happen to be," said Michael Jacobson, CSPI's executive director.

"How did a solution of high-fructose corn syrup, water and artificial flavors come to be the default beverage?" he said.

The group made the call in a petition filed with the US
Food and Drug Administration asking for a series of health notices on cans of drinks containing more than 13 grams (0.46 ounces) of refined sugars per 12 ounces (0.35 litres).

The demand earned an immediate riposte from the American Beverage Association (ABA) which represents the US soft drink industry.

"To ask the FDA for warning labels on soft drinks, or any food products that contain caloric sweeteners, patronizes consumers and lacks common sense," said ABA President and CEO Susan Neely.

"Soft drinks are a refreshing and enjoyable beverage to be consumed in moderation as part of a balanced approach to life.

"Individuals, not the government, are in the best position to make food and beverage choices that are right for them."

CSPI cited research based on government data showing that teenage boys who drink soft drinks consume an average of three 12 ounce cans per day, while girls drink more than two cans.

Teenagers who drink soft drinks get nearly 15 percent of their total calories from the drinks, the CSPI said.

Suggested messages included: "The US Government recommends that you drink less (non-diet) soda to help prevent weight gain, tooth decay and other health problems."

A second warning could read: "To help protect your waistline and your teeth, consider drinking diet sodas or water."

The CSPI on Wednesday issued an updated version of its 1998 report "Liquid Candy" which found that in 2004, soda companies produced 37 gallons (140 litres) of carbonated non diet soda, providing 60,000 empty calories for every man, woman and child in the United States.

The ABA said however that it was working hard to tackle what it said was America's "obesity challenge" arguing that it was offering an ever increasing range of products including low calorie soft drinks, caffeine-free products and bottled water, so people could find the right drink for them.

It pointed out that information on calories, sugar, caffeine, sodium and other contents was already contained on panels on the side of cans.

CSPI is a privately-funded organisation dedicated to informing the public and policymakers and to conducting research on food, alcohol, health and the environment, and to ensure science is used in the public good.

Wed. Jul 13, 2:55pm

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I'm convinced there are two major contributors to American obesity that often get overlooked:
1) soda -- completely empty calories, tons of sugar, yet not satisfying. Many people don't realize the enormous amounts of sugar in a can of soda! And of course kids love it. I definitely don't think soda (or Snapple) should be offered by schools!

2) dependence on cars/sprawl -- in most places in the US, you have to drive to get anywhere, and as a result, many Americans rarely walk unless they make a self-concious effort to. In European villages, by contrast, which were built before the era of the car, you'll see 80 year old ladies bicycling home with their groceries.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005, 3:35 PM

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While I mostly agree with the other chain where people said that less government is better than more, the sentence above from the ABA: "Individuals, not the government, are in the best position to make food and beverage choices that are right for them." is very telling. It's not adult individuals who are making this specific choice (according to the article, adults are drinking diet soda). It's KIDS who are making this choice, and kids are notorious for not making good choices.

In the ideal world, I'd think parents would step in and teach their kids about good choices, and the kids would listen and take it all to heart, etc. But this is not an ideal world. If the government needs to step in and help kids make better choices (by getting soda and other sweetened drinks out of schools, or by running a public service campaign that makes people more aware of how easy it is to drink empty calories, or something), then I think in this one case, more government might just be better.

No matter what way the ABA tries to spin it, their interests are selling more soda, not making people healthier.

Thursday, July 14, 2005, 7:53 AM

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What is the alternative, though? Selling children "diet" drinks filled with chemicals is definitely not a good idea! Fruit juice has as many, if not more, calories than soda. Milk is a good alternative, but what about children who are lactose-intolerant, or just don't like it? Water is an okay optioin, but it's so expensive when bottled, and I remember in my high school (which was very nice and in a very wealthy district), we did an experiment in chemistry where we took water from the drinking fountain and set it on fire b/c it had so much extra junk in it! Eww!

If you don't sell kids soda or snapple or juices, what should they drink?

Thursday, July 14, 2005, 8:42 AM

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I agree - bottled water is very expensive (and it's silly since you can just fill a bottle up in your sink or through the brita for "free").

Smaller bottles might be a good answer (many containers of juice or snapple or iced tea are 2 or 2.5 servings!), or subsidized water, or unsweetened herbal tea (fruit ingredients make it taste as sweet as necessary). Or maybe a hydration program at a school, where there are classes about why you need water, and how much water you should be drinking, and why soda doesn't count/is bad for you, and everyone gets a water bottle at the end. It's a hugely complicated problem, and it's not going to be solved just by taking soda and snapple out of school vending machines.

Thursday, July 14, 2005, 9:12 AM

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I could not disagree more. Taking soda and snapple out of schools and providing clean filtered water would do wonders. Removing the availability of soda will help kids lose weight. The schools should provide this.

Thursday, July 14, 2005, 9:51 AM

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