The food stamp program is a buy "whatever you want to buy" program, including soft drinks, said former agriculture secretary Ann Veneman on Monday, while advocating that benefits be limited to nutritious foods. "What some of us have argued (is) that this food stamp program ought to look a lot more like the WIC program and truly be a nutrition program."
Each child and teenager in the United States consumes enough sugary beverages to fill a bath tub every year, said the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Heart Association. Citing strong evidence of an association between added sugars and an increased risk of heart disease and other chronic illnesses, the prominent medical groups said they supported soda taxes to reduce consumption of added sugars.
Maine Gov. Paul LePage said it was “extremely disappointing” that the USDA denied his request to ban the purchase of candy and sugary drinks with food stamps on grounds it would help prevent obesity, reported the Bangor Daily News.
Only half of adult Americans and 61 percent of children consume a sugar-sweetened beverage on any given day, down sharply from consumption rates a decade earlier, reports the New York Times, citing a study in the journal Obesity. Fewer people are drinking sugary beverages and when they do, they consume fewer calories.
Coca-Cola upped its production of plastic drink bottles by more than a billion between 2015 and 2016, bringing the total number of bottles manufactured during that time to 110 billion, according to an analysis by Greenpeace. Coca-Cola, which is responsible for more plastic bottles than any other company, said in July that it intended to increase the amount of recycled plastic in its bottles to 50 percent by 2020, reports The Guardian.
A series of emails obtained under a state freedom of information law suggest major food companies have a "roadmap for dealing with scientific challenges," says the leader of the nonprofit group U.S. Right to Know in a Bloomberg story. The emails by current and former Coca-Cola executives suggest actions such as enlisting outside organizations to question dietary advice that was contrary to their business interests.
With judges split 5-2, the Pennsylvania Comonwealth Court upheld Philadelphia's 1.5-cent-an-ounce tax on sweetened beverages, the second win in court by the city, said Philadelphia Magazine. "Still, the ruling doesn’t conclude the soda tax war," said the magazine, because the American Beverage Association and local businesses could appeal to the state Supreme Court.
Drinking one to six diet sodas a week doubles the risk for stroke and may also increase the risk for dementia, according to a study of 4,000 people over age 45 in the journal Stroke. The reasons for the link are unknown, says The New York Times.
The nation’s first soda tax, Berkeley, California’s one-cent-per-ounce levy, hasn’t impacted retail businesses, but it has reduced soda purchases by 9.6 percent, says a new study by the University of North Carolina.
The Obama administration gave a cold shoulder to Gov. Paul LePage's proposal to bar Mainers from spending food stamps on soda and candy. LePage "is optimistic the new administration will approve his revived proposal," says The Associated Press, adding that lawmakers in Tennessee and Alabama are pursuing the same idea.
Opponents of Philadelphia's 1.5-cent-an-ounce tax on sugary beverages, who lost last year in Common Pleas court, asked the Commonwealth Court to overturn the levy as a form of double taxation, said the Associated Press. In arguments before a seven-judge panel, attorney Chip Becker said the state already imposes a sales tax on soda so the city is barred by law from taxing it too.
A pair of studies released by the Centers for Disease Control indicate that children and adults consume roughly the same amount of calories from soda and other sugary beverages, such as sports drinks, as they did at the start of the decade, says the Washington Post. "Rates have stalled at well above the recommended limit."
With few barriers to entry and younger consumers seeking alternatives to sugary drinks, start-ups in everything from juices and coffee to flavored water are flourishing, says the New York Times. The onetime founder of Odwalla, for example, has rebounded with a nut-drink company called Califia Farms that has hit $100 million in sales within four years.
Starting in 2018, Nestlé candy products will include a newly formulated version of sugar. The innovation will allow the company to lower sugar content 40 percent, says The New York Times. Without divulging exactly how Nestlé changed the traditional sugar molecule, Dr. Stefan Catsicas, the company’s chief technology officer, explained, “It is sugar, but it is assembled differently so it can disassemble easily in your mouth with less going into your gastrointestinal tract."
Three cities in California's Bay Area — San Francisco, Oakland and Albany — approved 1-cent-per-ounce soda taxes and Boulder, Colo., voted for a 2-cent levy on sugary beverages, marking large, landmark victories for public health campaigners against the beverage industry. Only two years ago, Berkeley, Calif., was the first city in the country to enact a soda tax.
At least 30 medical centers across the nation have restricted the sale of soda and full-calorie energy drinks, a list that includes the Cleveland Clinic, says the New York Times. UC-San Francisco, with a health sciences center, has gone a step farther by stopping sales entirely of sugar-sweetened beverages on its campus and creating the setting to study the impact on people who formerly drank the beverages during the work day.
In the San Francisco Bay Area, the beverage industry is spending millions to convince voters that the proposed soda tax will raise their grocery prices, not just the cost of sugary drinks, says Bridget Huber in FERN’s latest story, produced with PRI’s The World.
The consumer group Center for Science in the Public Interest says the two major U.S. soft-drink bottlers, Coca-Cola and Pepsi, and the trade group American Beverage Association "have spent a minimum of $67 million since 2009 to defeat soda taxes and warning labels in 19 cities and states." Four cities will vote on local soda taxes on Nov. 8, and there are published reports in Chicago that the president of the Cook County Board is looking at a tax on sugary beverages.