American Beverage Association

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Policymakers Should Stick To The Science

We are being inundated with stories about “studies” that make startling and contradictory claims about everyday products. Many are demonstrably false, peddled by activist groups. Still others are based on poor quality science or research aimed at frightening people about everyday foods and drinks that have never been proven to be harmful.

The Center for Accountability in Science is speaking out about it.

Joseph Perrone, chief science officer at the center, explained to The Hill that lawmakers are abandoning their duty to investigate claims against products and nutrients.

Unfortunately, an increasing number of policymakers are turning away from sound science and embracing so-called ‘right to know’ laws that raise consumer alarm about essentially nonexistent dangers,” he said.

Genetically modified foods, or GMOs, are a good example of government throwing up its hands and shirking its function to check things out.

“A long list of venerable health organizations and national academies of science confirm GMOs pose no risk to human health or the environment,” Perrone said. “Still, from Vermont to Hawaii, lawmakers have ignored science and instead sided with activist groups who continue to insist the risks to our health are ‘unknown’ and therefore unreasonable.”

The beverage industry is all too familiar with bad science skewing nutrition policy. This year the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee warned of potential dangers related to low- and no-calorie sweeteners despite repeated confirmation of their safety by the Food and Drug Administration and numerous other regulatory agencies around the globe.

“Lawmakers have a responsibility to consider the well-researched opinions of scientific experts,” states Perrone. “Scaring consumers about risks that don’t exist may help activist groups raise money and politicians get elected, but it does nothing to improve public knowledge, safety, and health.”

It’s simple – lawmakers need to listen to the totality of scientific evidence when forming policies. When they abandon this responsibility we get wrong advice like we did with foods containing cholesterol like eggs, once demonized as affecting cholesterol levels in the blood even though there was plenty of scientific evidence that such was not the case.

To learn more about the science behind our products and the ingredients they contain, visit LetsClearItUp.org.


Chicago Workers and Retailers Speak Out Against Beverage Tax Proposal

Like many municipalities across the country Chicago is facing a budget shortfall and is looking for ways to fill it. One of the proposals being floated at City Hall is a tax on beverages. The problem is Chicago already taxes beverages – twice. A third tax on common grocery items that would fall squarely on the backs of retailers, workers and families is not the answer.

John Coli, president of Teamsters Joint Council 25, and Rob Karr, president of the Illinois Retail Merchants Association, recently wrote an opinion piece, “City soda tax hurts working-class people,” in the Chicago Sun-Times that makes a compelling case for why the beverage tax is a bad idea.

“There are 1,400 union employees in Chicago whose livelihoods depend, in part, on the non-alcoholic beverage industry. Additionally, there are nearly 40,000 small business owners and their hard-working employees who could be negatively impacted should such a tax be implemented,” they wrote.

Yet another tax on beverages will cost jobs during hard economic times, and it won’t do a thing to improve public health, as Coil and Karr demonstrate.

“We’ve tried this before. Chicago increased taxes on these beverages in 1991, and yet obesity rates continued to rise. The only marked effects of these taxes have been an exodus of jobs, small businesses and revenue out of the city,” they said.

There are more effective ways to address Chicago’s obesity challenge and it starts with education, not taxes.

“Rather than … burdening struggling businesses and working-class employees with taxes that do little to address the issue, we should focus on educating Americans on how to lead a balanced lifestyle and developing partnerships that will have a meaningful and lasting impact,” they said.

Ordinary Chicagoans agree. Many are joining the movement against another regressive and discriminatory beverage tax by joining the Chicago Coalition Against Beverage Taxes, a coalition of Chicago families, small businesses, labor unions, chambers of commerce and community organizations. Learn more about their fight at the coalition website at www.noillinoisbeveragetax.com.


It’s National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month

President Obama’s proclamation announcing that September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month said that “childhood obesity rates have stopped rising, and we have seen an encouraging drop in obesity rates among children ages 2 to 5 years old.” This is indeed encouraging news and the beverage industry is committed to doing its part to continue that positive trend.

In fact, we hope some of what we are doing has been a factor in the good news.

The American Beverage Association partnered in 2006 with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation on the National School Beverage Guidelines – an initiative to remove full-calorie sodas from schools and replace them with a range of lower-calorie, smaller-portion choices. As a result of this ambitious effort we slashed beverage calories in schools by more than 90 percent and successfully changed the beverage landscape in schools across the country. This voluntary step by the beverage industry later helped form the basis of the beverage component of USDA’s regulations for foods and beverages sold in schools.

We understand that giving families the information they need to make informed choices is key to solving the obesity challenge. Clear on Calories – our calorie labeling effort which prominently displays calorie information on the front of every bottle, can and pack we sell –– was launched in 2010 in support of the First Lady’s “Let’s Move!” campaign. We are also placing calorie information on more than 3 million vending machines, self-serve fountains and retail coolers to make it easier for people to choose the drink that’s right for them.

Joining forces again with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, America’s leading beverage companies launched the Balance Calories Initiative in 2014 and set a goal to reduce beverage calories consumed per person nationally by 20 percent by 2025. An important component of this effort is Mixify™, a first-of-its kind national consumer awareness and engagement program encouraging teens and their families to balance their calories by moderating what they consume, including from beverages, and getting more active.

These efforts offer meaningful solutions to address our nation’s obesity challenge and the president recognized in his proclamation that they are making a difference. “We are proud that our nation’s businesses have joined in the fight by working to create healthier kids’ menus at restaurants and cut trillions of calories from the food and beverage products children consume,” President Obama stated.

To learn more about the beverage industry’s commitment to fighting obesity, visit DeliveringChoices.org.


Soda Taxes Are The Wrong Approach In Chicago – And Elsewhere

Some local legislators in Chicago are proposing to slap yet another tax on beverages, claiming it will improve public health while also helping dig the city out of a financial hole. But opponents are rising up against what they say is a bad idea that will raise prices on struggling families, cost jobs and do nothing to improve public health.

“Chicago has 20 years of experience with a 9 percent tax on fountain soft drinks and a 3 percent soft drink tax on cans and bottles. During that same time period, obesity has increased,” says Rob Karr, president of the Illinois Retail Merchants Association.

“They can’t pin the blame on sugar when obesity is up and sugar consumption is down,” says Karr, who also serves as co-chairman of the Chicago Coalition Against Beverage Taxes. “It’s discriminating against a single product and putting the blame where it doesn’t belong.”

The tax will also prompt Chicagoans to take a quick trip outside the city for cheaper prices on beverages. And when folks go elsewhere, they won’t just buy their beverages outside Chicago but do a lot of their shopping outside the city. That will put Chicago small businesses like grocery stores and the jobs that come with them at risk.

“Chicago is not an economic island. There are lots of places for consumers to get the products they want. And they’re within very easy driving distance,” Karr told the Chicago Sun-Times.

Unlike legislators who are in support of the tax, the beverage industry is focused on real and lasting solutions that bring people the information and options they need to achieve a balanced lifestyle.

To learn more about our industry’s commitments to being part of meaningful solutions, visit DeliveringChoices.org and click here to learn more about why these taxes – which have failed in more than 30 states and cities – are the wrong approach in Chicago.


Look For The Science In Science Reporting

Earlier in the year the U.S. Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) report stated that coffee is OK for you and can be “incorporated into a healthy lifestyle.” Today, a CNN report cites another study that claims drinking coffee is bad for your heart.

It seems like every day the news media is reporting on a new study that contradicts a previous study. The DGAC said in February that the latest science indicates that as many as five cups of coffee a day is OK. It may even have some health benefits, it said, and pregnant women could indulge in a cup in limited amounts.

Now we have a CNN article saying coffee has been “associated” with health issues such as blindness and risk of lung disease. This follows a claim by the activist group the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) that alleged following the DGAC advice “could increase the risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes, including spontaneous abortion, stillbirth, preterm delivery, and childhood leukemia.”

So why are so many science headlines so confusing? Sensational headlines are just that – sensational and attention-grabbing – but are not always telling the whole story.

An article in Buzzfeed News on why science studies are constantly contradicting each other stated that “science isn’t a lightning bolt. It’s an incremental process: Slivers of evidence build on each other, over long periods of time, to (hopefully!) get at the truth.”

We agree. Society must look at the totality of scientific evidence before making a judgment. As David Ogilvy, an advertising executive known as “The Father of Advertising,” once said, “on the average, five times as many people read the headlines as read the body copy.”

So the next time you see a catchy headline remember that journalists are not usually scientists. Take a closer look at all the science available. Feel free to check out our Let’s Clear It Up website for the facts on our industry’s products and ingredients.


Bringing Americans Clear Calorie Information

It would be hard to find an industry that does more to respond to consumer demand for facts about its products than the beverage industry.

Leading beverage companies like The Coca-Cola Company, Dr Pepper Snapple Group and PepsiCo have been serving and listening to Americans for well over a century in some cases. These companies, whose signature drinks were delivered in horse-drawn wagons in the 19th century, owe their success to listening to their consumers over the years.

One of the things beverage companies have responded to is the desire from consumers for clear, fact-based information so they can make the right decisions for their lifestyle.

In 2010, America’s leading beverage companies launched the Clear on Calories initiative, which prominently displays calorie information on the front of every bottle, can and pack we sell. The initiative was done to support First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” anti-obesity Campaign, and it empowers consumers by giving them the calorie information they need to make an informed choice about what to drink.

Then there’s our Calories Count Beverage Vending Program, which we launched in 2013 to bring the same clear-calorie information to vending machines nationwide. “Check Then Choose” messages on vending machines encourage people to check the clear calorie information displayed for every choice on the front of the machine, and urge them also to “Choose A Low-Calorie Beverage” before making the decision that is best for them.

People should know up front how many calories their foods and drinks contain; our industry is ahead of the pack in finding ways to make sure that happens and benefits all consumers.

To learn more about how America’s beverage companies are delivering Americans the information they want and need, visit DeliveringChoices.org.


Delivering Through Partnerships

Educating consumers about how to best maintain a balanced lifestyle is the clear way to address a complex societal challenge like obesity. One of the most effective ways we can reach children and parents with this message is to support public servants who partner with community organizations to make a meaningful difference in the lives of people. No group is better suited to do that than America’s mayors.

For the fourth year, the beverage industry is joining forces with The United States Conference of Mayors (USCM) to fund grants that will help mayors with innovative ideas for fighting obesity put their plans into action in their cities and towns. With the support of the American Beverage Foundation for a Healthy America, the USCM’s Childhood Obesity Prevention Program will award a total of $445,000 in grants to six cities to strengthen new and existing programs initiated by USCM member mayors.

Applications are now being accepted for the 2016 Childhood Obesity Prevention Awards. Cities interested in submitting an application should download the application instructions and make sure to get their submissions in by the Sept. 16, 2015, deadline.

The winners of the 2015 Childhood Obesity Prevention Awards – Green Bay, Wisc.; Jacksonville, Fla.; Lima, Ohio; New Haven, Conn.; North Miami, Fla., and Seattle – have all created innovative programs to fight childhood obesity. The grants are helping the mayors of these cities expand programs that range from teaching teens how to cook healthy meals to creative promotions urging balance.

Our industry believes that public-private partnerships that put accurate information on balance in the hands of consumers is key to combatting obesity. Programs like this have a lasting impact on communities and exemplify how we are truly an industry that supports the communities in which we live, work and play.

To learn more on how our industry delivers, visit DeliveringChoices.org.


Encouraging Balance In Communities Nationwide

America’s beverage companies are constantly looking for ways to be an industry leader in public health with our efforts to reduce obesity.

Just last year the American Beverage Association along with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, a nonprofit group that empowers kids to develop lifelong healthy habits, launched our Balance Calories Initiative that set a goal to reduce beverage calories consumed per person nationally by 20 percent by 2025. To do so, Coca-Cola, Dr Pepper Snapple Group and PepsiCo will leverage their marketing and innovation strengths to increase interest in smaller portion sizes, lower- and no-calorie beverages and water.

We are also increasing our efforts to provide more options and information in certain communities where the availability and demand for no- and low-calorie beverages falls below the national average. Communities within Los Angeles, Little Rock, Ark., and New York City will be the first see these changes firsthand. In these communities our member companies will promote water and no- and lower-calorie beverage consumption as well as explore other strategies such as merchandising, product placement and couponing to drive interest in and improve access to these choices.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio thanked the beverage companies via a spokesman for bringing this public health initiative to his city: “Our communities are suffering the adverse health effects of highly caloric and non-nutritious diets, and we welcome all initiatives that will help improve the health of New Yorkers.  We thank the Alliance for a Healthier Generation and the beverage companies for including New York City in this effort, and we look forward to seeing the results of this campaign.”

And as we learn from the work we are doing in these communities we will expand our efforts into other cities nationwide to help people achieve balance in their lives.

To learn more about how the beverage industry is delivering, visit DeliveringChoices.com.


Dietary Advice Should Be Based On Science

The latest news on federal advice on diet makes it clear that much of what we’ve been told to stay away from is wrong. For decades, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGAs) warned people to avoid fatty foods such as butter and cheese. Now research shows that recommendation was not based on sound scientific evidence and should never have been issued.

Dietary warnings on salt and cholesterol-laden foods such as eggs are other examples of the government creating policy based on outdated or flawed evidence. In a recent commentary, The Telegraph questions whether such ominous warnings from “experts” about a single nutrient do more harm than good.

“At various points in the past two decades, chocolate, red wine, eggs, oils, bread and starches have all been identified by the food police as either life enhancers or the harbingers of cardio-vascular doom. This erratic guidance is annoying but also dangerous,” the commentary states.

We agree. We believe the DGAs should be based on the best available science and provide recommendations that can be achievable for the majority of Americans.  We also believe that nutrition science should not be boiled down to “good” and “bad” foods. Maintaining a healthy weight comes down to balancing all of the calories we consume throughout the day with daily activity.

Singling out one ingredient as the cause of health woes has been proven wrong and will be again if we don’t look at the totality of scientific evidence when formulating advice for Americans to follow.


Beverage Industry Ready for Back-to-School

It’s old truism that when there’s a problem, some look to assign blame and others look to find solutions. The beverage industry knows this firsthand. While the United States struggles with rising obesity rates, some look to blame sugar-sweetened beverages even though they account for only about 6 percent of calories in the average American’s diet.  Even so, the beverage industry has worked hard to be part of meaningful solutions.

As summer winds down and we start to think about a new academic year it is a good time to consider the significant actions the beverage industry has made to changing the school beverage landscape. Through their School Beverage Guidelines, America’s beverage companies successfully removed full-calorie sodas from schools nationwide, replacing them with more lower-calorie and smaller-portion options.  In fact, these guidelines formed the foundation for the beverage component of USDA’s federal school regulations.  And the industry didn’t stop in schools.  Their latest commitment is to reduce beverage calories consumed per person nationally by 20 percent by 2025. This is the single largest voluntary effort by any industry to help fight obesity.

So while some activists are driving their own agenda to tax, ban and restrict beverages, our industry is working hard to help consumers strike the right balance in their choices – whatever it may be.