American Beverage Association

Sip & Savor - Recent Posts

The Facts About Added Sugars Labeling

You may have heard that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has proposed that an “added sugars” line be added to the Nutrition Facts Panel that appears on all foods and beverages. The Nutrition Facts Panel is a helpful and important guide to the nutrients and calories in everyday grocery items. Unfortunately, adding “added sugars” to Nutrition Facts Panel will only confuse consumers.

In a piece on KeepFoodLegal.org, Executive Director Baylen Linnekin, who is also a professor of food and policy law at George Mason University, states, “Use of the term ‘added sugar’ is misleading, as it creates a deceptive health halo around products like orange juice and apple juice, which are high in naturally occurring sugar but contain no added sugar.”

As Linnekin points out, the mandatory Nutrition Facts Panel already requires food and beverage makers to inform consumers exactly how much sugar is in a given serving: “Why stop at mandating added sugar on food labels? Why not added salt, added caffeine, and added allergens like soy and dairy? Why not label for added protein and added carbs.”

Confused? You should be. Sugar is sugar, regardless of its source, and it’s treated the same way by the body whether you add a spoonful of it to your coffee or drink a glass of juice. So why are some groups pushing to list sugar as much as three times on a label, splitting it up between added and intrinsic? That’s only going to mislead consumers about how much sugar is actually in a product.

Food activists are trying to leave the impression that products they don’t like contain far more sugar than they do, Linnekin says. Listing “added sugars” on the Nutrition Facts Panel is not intended to provide consumers with more information; it’s intended to punish companies the activists think should not be in business, he says.

We here at Sip & Savor are in favor of providing consumers with the information they need to make the decisions that are right for them. Companies already clearly display the amount of sugar in their products on the Nutrition Facts Panel, along with the calories (which our member companies also place on the front of every bottle, can and pack they produce), so splitting up the same nutrient into two parts is unnecessary.  The FDA claims it wants to provide clarity for consumers, but these proposed changes actually undermine that goal. It’s not just Baylen Linnekin and the beverage industry that have concerns. If you want to read more about why placing “added sugars” on the Nutrition Facts Panel is the wrong approach, check out this Forbes article. And to learn more about why such a change will only lead to consumer confusion, the International Food Information Council (IFIC) shares its public comments on its consumer research.


U.S. Senator Gillibrand: Soda Taxes Are Not The Way To Fight Obesity

Speaking at a Washington Post “Changing Menus” event in Washington, D.C., U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., called soda taxes regressive and said that there are better ways to fight obesity.

A post in Capital New York covered Gillibrand’s remarks, and cited her as saying that taxing soda will mean less money in family budgets to be able to afford fresh fruits and vegetables.

We couldn’t agree more.  What you put in your grocery cart is your choice!  We know that regressive taxes on soft drinks and other sugar-sweetened beverages won’t make people healthier – diet and exercise do that!

For more information on soda taxes and how to keep politicians out of your grocery cart, visit YourCartYourChoice.com.


Study Shows Soda Taxes Just Don’t Work

We at Sip & Savor came across this column written by Michael Thomas, assistant professor in the Economics and Finance Department at Creighton University, on how soda and “junk food” taxes are regressive and won’t actually curb obesity or other health problems.  Thomas highlights the findings from his recent study published by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.

The report found that “selective consumption taxes are both ineffective and regressive, and that improving education and increasing the availability of healthier goods may be better steps than raising taxes on those who can least afford them.”

Thomas also argues that the policymakers got the wrong approach when it comes to trying to solve the obesity challenge:

“Not only does this approach of tax first not work, it directs our attention away from useful solutions to the problem. With the desire to raise revenue through additional taxes, policymakers forget to actually offer solutions, something that we should be working on….Policymakers must switch from a regulation mentality to an empowering mentality. Only after finding ways to integrate good choices into the daily lives of our fellow citizens can we see lasting change.”

The fact is, taxes don’t make people healthier – and they won’t solve the obesity challenge.  You don’t have to take our word for it – check out this other study from Mercatus Center at George Mason University which found that a 20 percent tax on soda would reduce the average obese person’s Body Mass Index by .02 – from 40 to 39.98 – an amount not even measurable on a bathroom scale.

Instead of trying to find a quick fix to address the complex problem of obesity, we need real action and a comprehensive approach.  And that is why our industry focuses on real solutions that have a lasting impact on our communities.  For example, our industry’s Balance Calories Initiative launched last year will provide consumers with information and options to help them achieve balance and reduce beverage calories consumed per person nationally by 20 percent by 2025.

For more information on our industry’s initiatives, visit DeliveringChoices.org.


Is Vermont Really Trying To Solve Obesity?

Is two cents a lot of money? It is when you are talking about a soda tax, an economics professor in Vermont has found.

Vermont is among a handful of states considering a two-cents-per-ounce tax on soda to fight obesity. Not only does a tax at that rate raise the price of your beverages by as much as 153 percent in some cases, says Art Woolf, associate professor of economics at the University of Vermont – it also makes little sense as a way to reduce obesity.

“Although two cents doesn’t sound like much, any tax has to be considered in context,” he writes in an opinion piece on VTDigger.org.

What’s that context?

Woolf finds that, “a two cents per ounce tax translates into about a 20 percent tax on a single 20 ounce bottle of soda purchased at a convenience store or from a vending machine.” Which means that a 20 ounce bottle of soda that currently costs $1.89 would now cost $2.29 or a two liter bottle could go from 88 cents to $2.23.

Until now legislators have been ignoring the impact such drastic changes could have.  The reality is that these dramatic increases will disproportionally affect lower income residents of Vermont and ultimately force them to cross state lines to purchase these products.  And at what cost? Supporters claim that the revenue from the tax will go towards helping reduce obesity rates, but taxes, especially those that single out one product, won’t make people healthy.

Woolf says, “If the Legislature wants to reduce obesity, a narrow tax on sugary drinks may not be the best way to accomplish that goal. After all, if consuming too much sugar is a major cause of obesity, why not tax all sugary products: cookies, candy, brownies, cake mix, ice cream, chocolate milk, sugar itself, and any product with a lot of calories from sugar?”

Exactly.  Taxing one product does not make sense if legislators are truly looking for a solution to obesity. In reality they are hoping the tax can help increase revenue and in order to gain support to pass the tax, they are downplaying the enormous price increases that could occur as a result.

We aren’t fooled by these tactics, and you shouldn’t be either.  Disguising a tax that is designed to help increase revenue as one that will help make people in Vermont healthy is a step back in solving obesity. Allowing the government to impose a tax that could double the price of products people know and love and that have repeatedly been deemed safe is ineffective.

Change comes from providing people with the information they need to choose what options are right for them, not with government regulations. To learn more about the ineffectiveness of soda taxes check out YourCartYourChoice.com.


Clearing Up More Misinformation About Energy Drinks

You might have read recently some news coverage of a new study from the Rudd Center at the University of Connecticut which claims that energy drinks are unsafe and therefore sales of these products should be restricted. This is no surprise to us as, after all, the Rudd Center has a long history of bashing beverages.

What you might not have read in the coverage of this report is that energy drinks have been enjoyed safely by millions of people around the world for more than 25 years, and in the U.S. for more than 15 years.  Energy drinks, their ingredients and labeling are regulated by the FDA, and, like most consumer products, their advertising is subject to oversight from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission.

The Rudd report also ignores crucial data about energy drinks and caffeine consumption in the U.S.  Based on the most recent government data reported in the journal Pediatrics, children under 12 have virtually no caffeine consumption from energy drinks.

Importantly, leading energy drink manufacturers voluntarily go far beyond all federal requirements when it comes to labeling and education. In fact, ABA member companies voluntarily display total caffeine content – from all sources – on their packages along with advisory statements indicating that the product is not recommended for children, pregnant or nursing women and persons sensitive to caffeine.  They also have voluntarily pledged not to market these products to children or sell them in K-12 schools.

To read more about these guidelines and more, check out the ABA Guidance on the Responsible Labeling and Marketing of Energy Drinks.


When Is Too Much, Too Much?

H.L. Mencken said, “For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.”  The way the public health advocates and legislators are trying to regulate our way out of the obesity challenge is a good example of what the American cultural critic was talking about.

When it comes to misguided regulation on sugar-sweetened beverages whether it’s a soda tax, a soda ban, warning label, you name it, it has been proposed by lawmakers across the United States.  Michael Marlow, an economics professor at California Polytechnic, San Luis Obispo, published a study in the spring 2015 issue of the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons on how the government is overreaching on obesity control.

“Government interventions to combat obesity are based on pervasive, popular myths unsupported by scientific evidence” Marlow states in this piece.

Marlow concludes that, “Government overreach on obesity control is a recipe for expanding government with inflated promises unlikely to be fulfilled…Meanwhile, taxpayer resources are allocated to poorly informed theories based on myths that are often developed within laboratories insulated from real-world interactions of profit-minded suppliers and weight-conscious consumers.”

We agree. Taxes and bans don’t make people healthy.  It’s by coming together within our communities that we can have a meaningful and lasting impact.  Just take a look at our industry’s initiatives –  Balance Calories, Clear on Calories and School Beverages Guidelines – that help consumers make informed decisions. Our member companies are empowering consumers to make choices that are right for them by providing clear calorie information, and more lower-calorie, smaller-portion options.

For more information on these and other industry initiatives, check out DeliveringChoices.org.  And click here to read Marlow’s study.


How Do Politicians Like It When Food Regulations Apply To Them?

People don’t like the government regulating their food and beverages choices, which is why proposals to tax sugar-sweetened beverages have repeatedly failed over the years.  Well, it turns out that many elected officials aren’t so fond of the government regulating what they eat and drink either.

Take Vermont for example. The Burlington Free Press published a story this week on the negative reaction that many state representatives have had to new food and drink regulations in the Statehouse cafeteria. The new regulations say at least 50 percent of snacks should have no more than 200 calories per item, sodas should be limited to 12 ounces and whole milk has been eliminated.

As a result, favorite treats like “Peace Pops” from Vermont’s own Ben & Jerry’s have vanished, and some are worried that the Biggy Iggy, the local favorite cookie which many lawmakers grab as a snack to get them through a long session, may wind up on the government blacklist too.

“What a crock,” said Rep. Brian Savage, R-Swanton, the assistant House minority leader. “We’re all adults in this building. We know what’s good for us.”

Vermont House Speaker Shap Smith observed that he “didn’t mind dietary reminders, but restrictions would go too far.”

Exactly. Politicians don’t like being told what they can and can’t do and that’s no different than their constituents.  They enjoy their Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and soft drinks just as much as anyone. And they feel they can decide for themselves what’s good for them. So isn’t it hypocritical that some politicians in Vermont want to hike prices on some beverages with a tax to make it harder for people to afford them? They say it’s for our own good, but can’t we decide that for ourselves?

As Shap said, providing people with information that they can use to choose what is right for them is the way to go, and our industry beverage companies support that approach. But in the end it should be up to individuals to decide what food and beverage choices are right for them.

Check out YourCartYourChoice.com to learn more about preserving consumer choice when it comes to what we eat and drink, and visit DeliveringChoices.org to learn how the industry is helping consumers choose the option that’s best for them.


Is Common Sense Still Common?

Earlier this week, a study was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society alleging that consuming diet beverages increases the waistline.  While some media reports might convey that this claim is true – doctors and dietitians have said otherwise:  there is no proof that diet beverages are linked to an increase in belly fat.

The study focused on 749 adults aged 65 years or older over a 10-year period and claims that people who regularly drink diet beverages added three inches to their waistline while non-regular diet beverage drinkers added only .8 inches.  What the study failed to mention was that people in this age group are already at risk of weight gain, therefore the weight gain cannot be accurately attributed to diet beverages.

In fact, Catherine Collins, St. George’s Hospital NHS Trust principal dietitian, points out that the researchers “carefully” avoided some important points like why the subjects were drinking diet beverages and whether they were overweight or trying to lose weight to begin with.  Collins also mentions that the study “doesn’t confirm that diet drinks make you fat, but rather confused correlation with causation,” and that all calories, both from food and beverages, count in terms of body weight and storage of surplus calories.

Additionally, Dr. Nita Forouhi of the University of Cambridge states:

“This study does not establish that diet soda leads to accumulation of abdominal fat, due to current study limitations. Though the authors speculate that the higher waist girth is likely to represent the metabolically active deep visceral fat more so than the superficially located subcutaneous fat, they did not directly measure these, so it is unclear what type of “belly fat” would be associated with diet soda intakes.”

In response to the study, we noted in a statement that this was an observational study that does not – and cannot – establish causation, and that the study subjects – aged 65 and older – reported what they consumed years after actually doing so.  Furthermore, the researchers did not assess total caloric intake and, instead, singled out one specific aspect of the diet.

Our member companies offer consumers an array of no- and low-calorie options as another way to enjoy their favorite beverages while watching their calorie intake.  Decades of research continues to show that the no- and low-calorie sweeteners found in diet beverages and thousands of other foods and beverages can help reduce calories consumed and aid in maintaining a healthy weight.  And these sweeteners have been approved by regulatory agencies around the globe, including the World Health Organization (WHO), U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), as safe for use in both foods and beverages.

For more information on the safety of diet beverages and the sweeteners in them, visit LetsClearItUp.org.


Vermont Soda Tax Proposal Is Misguided Approach

Taxes don’t make people healthy.  Diet and exercise do that.  So, an excise tax on soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages won’t work to solve the complex issue of obesity.  And as we recently read in an article on the Vermont Public Radio website, a proposed soda tax in the state would have unintended consequences that go far beyond the beverage aisle:

“Jim Harrison is the executive director of the Vermont Retail and Grocers Association, a group that strongly opposes the sugar sweetened beverage tax. He says it’s likely that some retailers will choose not to raise the price of these beverages, but instead will spread the cost of the tax to many other products in their store.”

In the story, Harrison remarks:  “We do know that the tax will be hidden. It will be buried somewhere in the cost of products, and what retailers or different merchants do will really depend on what their marketing strategy is.”

We stand firmly in our position that soda taxes are nothing more than a thinly veiled money grab.  If we want to get serious about obesity, it starts with education – not taxes on common grocery items, like juice drinks, teas, soda and sports drinks.

Check in with Americans for Food and Beverage Choice for more information.


Experts Providing Answers On Low-Calorie Sweeteners

There is a lot of conflicting information in newspapers and on websites these days on low- and no-calorie sweeteners. That’s why we here at Sip & Savor like to share articles we come across that – unlike much of what you see in the blogosphere – are based on sound science and not just sensational headlines.

Today we want to highlight an About.com article written by Barbie Cervoni, a type 2 diabetes expert.  In this article, certified diabetes educator and expert Hope Warshaw answers questions on the safety and benefits of low- and no-calorie sweeteners.  In the article, Cervoni and Warshaw address a few questions that people wonder about but don’t really know where to find an accurate answer:

Cervoni: What does the body of research available today conclude about LCS and cravings and increasing appetite for sugary foods and sweets?

Warshaw: This has been another area of contention regarding LCS.  The notion seems to be that because LCS are sweeter than sugar they overstimulate sweet taste receptors and cause sweet cravings which leads people to overeat and gain weight.  Several recent studies refute this notion. F or instance, Antenucci and Hayes recruited over 400 people for a series of taste tests…. The results showed that participants perceived the sweetness of LCS at lower concentrations than the calorie-containing sweeteners.  The researchers concluded that the results don’t support the claim that LCS over-stimulate peoples’ sweet taste receptors.

Bottom Line: Rather than increasing cravings, appetite and hunger, in actuality LCS (either as a sugar substitute or food and beverage), may satisfy people’s cravings for sweets and tamp down their hunger.

Cervoni: How much LCS do people in general and people with diabetes specifically consume?

Warshaw: When it comes to “safe” amounts of LCS to consume research shows that people, on average, consume nowhere close to what is called the Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI)…. Let’s look at aspartame for an example. The FDA ADI for aspartame is 50 mg/kg of body weight/day. This amount would be equal to using 97 packets of an aspartame-containing LCS each day over a person’s lifetime.  Yet the Estimated Daily Intake (EDI) for aspartame was found to be 6 percent of ADI in the general adult population.

So, instead of believing what the headline of the day may say, we encourage you to take a closer look – and listen to the experts.  Hope Warshaw is a registered dietitian and a veteran diabetes care educator with more than 35 years of experience – which includes years of translating research about these ingredients for those with diabetes.  Warshaw also has authored several books published by the American Diabetes Association and writes for Diabetes Living magazine.  Please check out the full article here, and we’ll keep you posted on the real science supporting the benefits and safety of low- and no-calorie sweeteners.