For a while now, a lot of self-appointed do-gooders - you know, those people who know best about what we should be eating, drinking or doing - find themselves media attention by demonizing certain food and beverage products made by high-profile companies. In fact, these do-gooders make a comfortable living telling us and policy-makers what is and isn't acceptable.
In our industry, the food police like to go after soft drinks, energy drinks and bottled water. They insist these products are wrong for teens, should be banned from high schools and their sale restricted for teens in other venues. Now, a full-calorie soda has about 150 calories, a small portion in the 2,000+ calorie diet recommended for an average person; active teens can most certainly handle and need more than that as they're burning off calories. Bottled water has zero calories, yet that gets demonized by the Nannies because it's not tap water.
A question for the intelligentsia: What are teenagers, or even preteens for that matter, supposed to drink when they get together to socialize? Milk or juice or tap water? This trio is actually the limited, recommended beverage choices for teens by the Institute of Medicine – whose ideas are then peddled by the food police.
Get out of your science labs and ivory towers, folks. And get serious. If you really believe that's what teens will drink when they get together, you're living in another world. And naively contributing to a dangerous world.
An unfortunate but age-old lure for teens at social gatherings is alcohol -- beer or the harder stuff. Spring tends to be a time of year when teens get together more, especially when the warmer weather draws them outdoors. It's also one of those disappointing times when stories like this one from a Northern Virginia high school become more the norm than the exception. A group of students, in this case female athletes, go to a party, drink alcohol and get suspended. Thankfully, none of them wrapped a car around a tree afterwards.
Maybe it would be a bit easier to resist the temptations of alcohol if teens had some legitimate and realistic options. Non-alcoholic products conducive to teen socializing because they taste good (soft drinks), have some carbonation (energy drinks) or are hip (a word from our generation) to carry around.
But this becomes harder when the food police demonize these perfectly fine refreshments and co-opt parents into believing their teens shouldn't be drinking them. Would you rather they drink the beer? Because we're quite confident they're not going to drink the milk.
Look, we're not Pollyanish either. Alcohol is always going to be a temptation for teens. Our products aren't going to eliminate that problem. But teen drinking won't have any chance of diminishing if, after receiving the good talks from their parents, our children don't have viable options to turn to in social settings. Then it becomes just that much harder to resist the peer pressure.
To those geniuses in academia, step outside into the real world. Stop demonizing safe, refreshing products that taste good like soda, energy drinks and bottled waters. You're contributing to more problems than you're solving. Have an energy drink and wake up to the real world.