Every once in a while we hear something about our industry’s beverages that just baffles us. Today it comes from Howard County, Md. Just yesterday, elected officials joined another organization to dump 10 tons of “sugar” (they actually used sand) from a dump truck into an elementary school parking lot, claiming that it equals the amount of sugar a student would consume if he/she would drink one 12-ounce soft drink per day, every day, for one year.
Even if that math worked out correctly, the county is behind the times. We already removed full-calorie soft drinks from schools in Howard County and across the country, and replaced them with water, milk and 100 percent juice. As a result of this action, we cut calories available from beverages in school by 90 percent between 2004 and the end of the 2009-2010 school year.
On top of that, 45 percent of all beverages purchased are zero calorie, according to Beverage Marketing Corporation data.
We’re taking real action to help consumers make the choice that’s right for them by placing clear calorie labels right on the front of every can, pack and bottle we produce. That way, consumers have the calorie information right at their fingertips before they make their purchase.
These critics can dump sand in a parking lot all day, but the facts don’t lie. From 1999 to 2010, full-calorie soda sales are down 12.5 percent; since 1998, the average calories per serving from beverages are down 23 percent; beverage calories in schools are down 90 percent, as noted above; and added sugars calories from soda in the American diet are down 39 percent since 2000.
At the same time obesity among children and adolescents continues to rise. How can soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages be a unique or significant contributor to obesity? The numbers just don’t add up.
This was a real missed opportunity for county officials to educate consumers of any age about the importance of moderation and balance in the diet.
Perhaps the best way to sum this up is this excerpt from an editorial on ExploreHoward.com:
“Educating the population about healthy habits, even encouraging them to embrace them is fine. Essentially banning popular, legal, non-alcoholic beverages from being sold on county property is something else.”