Food, drink makers push back at soda taxes, junk-food curbs
Big Brother is looking for a place at the family dinner table. And some of the other diners think he’s crashing the party.
State and local governments across the nation are increasingly using the government’s power to battle rising obesity rates by taxing sugar-sweetened drinks, changing food labeling and promoting exercise.
And folks are starting to push back.
“Government is getting too big and too involved in our lives,” said American Beverage Association (ABA) spokesman Chris Gindlesperger, whose group’s products are being targeted by some of the latest initiatives.
Last May, D.C. lawmakers approved a measure that would add sports drinks, soda and other sweetened beverages to the list of food items subject to the city’s 6 percent sales tax. The money from the D.C. tax would be used to fund physical education programs in local schools. A similar bill was passed in Colorado in February.
**FILE** Pepsi products are for sale at a grocery store in Danvers, ... more >
Americans Against Food Taxes (AAFT) has begun ad campaigns in Washington and elsewhere nationwide featuring moms at grocery stores saying, “I can decide what to buy without government help. The government is just getting too involved in our personal lives.” One radio ad also makes it political, though not personal — saying voters need to send Congress a message, but giving no names of anyone on any ballot.
The food fight has indeed gone national, though the results have been mixed.
• In Philadelphia, restaurants are now required to display nutritional information on menus, and Mayor Michael Nutter proposed a soft-drink tax, but the Philadelphia City Council decided not to consider it for a vote.
• In San Francisco, Mayor Gavin Newsom instituted a citywide policy that removed Coke, Pepsi and Fanta Orange from all vending machines on city property, but allowed the diet versions of the drinks to stay.
• In New York City, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg recently sent a request to the U.S. Department of Agriculture to ban sugared drinks from being purchased in the city with food stamps. Mr. Bloomberg also was an early pioneer both of mandating nutritional information on menus and using city government’s power to ban restaurant use of trans fats.
• A nationwide excise tax on sugared beverages was also considered by the Senate Finance Committee earlier this year to help fund the health care bill, but was quickly shelved.
• A southwestern Ohio high school has installed an all-carrot vending machine on the premises, with the cooperation of a farmers group that wishes to turn baby carrots into the latest “junk food” craze.
And activist groups want more.
A report published Wednesday by the Institute of Medicine and sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration calls for food packaging to highlight calories, saturated fat, trans fat and sodium, rather than the current contents — information on vitamin, cholesterol and fiber.
“These food components are routinely overconsumed and associated most strongly with diet-related health problems affecting many Americans, including obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer,” the group said in a statement.
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