|May 9, 2011|
|Bloomberg Battles Sugar; Lobbyists Splurge|
|By Jack O'Dwyer|
|Attacks on sugar proliferated last week including a renewed campaign by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg to stop food stamp recipients (now a record 41 million nationwide) from using stamps to buy "sugar-sweetened beverages."|
Bloomberg's aims were covered in a 1,100-word article in the (Sat.) April 30 New York Times.
Banned would be any drinks with more than 10 calories per eight-ounce serving.
Sugar content should be graphically depicted on the front of soda cans.
Twelve-ounce cans of Coke and Pepsi have 150 calories or ten teaspoons of sugar (15 calories per teaspoon).
Come to think of it, since youth (a principal target of the soda companies) is so graphics-minded and soda companies profess a policy of openness, containers should show sugar content in terms of readily understandable teaspoons of sugar. They can keep showing their calorie, carbohydrate and gram counts (in the usual minuscule type) but should show either a sizable picture of ten teaspoons in the case of Coke & Pepsi or a picture of one big spoon with the number "10" on it and "sugar" underneath it.
That would get across the amounts of sugar involved.
Excess sugar in drinks turns into fat if not burned quickly.
Lobbying Budgets Zoom
While both Coke and Pepsi have "do-good" Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programs under way ("Live Positively" for Coke and "Performance with Purpose" at Pepsi), their lobbyists are spending record amounts to block taxes on soda across the nation.
The American Beverage Assn., supported by Coke, Pepsi and others, spent $12.9 million to fight the soda tax proposed by former Governor David Paterson in 2010.
ABA was the biggest New York lobbyist, outspending the United Fed. of Teachers, No. 2 at $7.8M, said NYPIRG, a reform group. Total state lobbying spending was a record $210M, up from $198M in the previous year and a far cry from the $80M spent in 2001.
D.C. Spending 'Super-Sized'
Proposed federal taxes on sugary drinks in 2009 caused Galen Reser, Pepsi VP-government affairs, to say that they are"one of the biggest public policy threats the company has ever seen."
The ABA nationally spent $9.9 million on lobbying in 2010, according to reports filed under the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995.
ABA SVP Kevin Keane old the NYT April 30 that "Once you start going into grocery carts, deciding what people can or cannot buy, where do you stop?"
Bloomberg said he wants food stamp users to buy "foods and drinks that provide real nourishment."
The benefits are paid by the Federal Government and are administered by the Agriculture Dept.
The NYT said President Obama's position on the New York plan is "unclear" and that it puts him in "an awkward situation." First Lady Michelle Obama's anti-obesity program calls for Americans to "drink less soda or sugar-sweetened drinks."
New York officials say sugary drinks are the single biggest contributor to the obesity epidemic. They are marketed heavily to children who acquire a lifelong "sweet tooth," say the critics.
Athlete endorsements and "brilliant" coloring help to "hook" the children, they add.
President Obama has said that Americans drink "way too much soda" and that taxing soda is "an idea that we should be exploring."
PR a 'No Show' in NYT Article
The NYT sought comment from Susan Davidson, Kraft director of corporate affairs, and Kirstie Foster, General Mills director of corporate PR. Both refused.
Kraft products include, besides cheese and candy (Cadbury), Kool-Aid and Oreo cookies.
Davidson sent the NYT to the Food Research and Action Center and Foster suggested the Grocery Mfrs. Assn.
Brian Kennedy, spokesman for the GMA, referred questions to two other trade groups, the Food Marketing Institute and the National Grocers Assn., both of which object to Bloomberg's proposal.
California health officials say the state is in a fiscal crisis and cannot afford the costs of obesity driven by highly profitable soda companies who especially target youth.
Assemblyman Bill Monning last week said he is "temporarily" giving up on his bill to tax sugared drinks at the rate of a penny-per-ounce.
The GOP-controlled Assembly requires a two-thirds majority to pass such a law and the "Republicans adamantly oppose any such new tax," said the Sacramento Bee.
Said Monning: "I remain committed to educating the public about the dangers of sugary drinks?the biggest contributor to current obesity trends." He said the state "must avoid a future influx of chronically ill adults into an already overstressed healthcare sytstem."
The California Center for Public Health Advocacy says 56% of state adults are overweight as well as 28% of the children and there has been a "dramatic rise" in chronic diseases such as diabetes which costs the state $41 billion a year.
Dr. Harold Goldstein of the CCPHA said half of African-American and Latino children and one-third of Caucasian children born in 2000 will develop Type 2 diabetes in their lifetimes under current trends.
CCPHA has focused on the role of sugary beverages in the obesity epidemic.
Nationally, 12.5 million children and teens or 16.9% are "obese," according to the Centers for Disease Control.
The Wall St. Journal had a feature April 29 on Maine's campaign to get children to eliminate "sugary drink" from their diets.
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