Yesterday we blogged about what Reuters didn’t tell you in their one-sided story about the beverage industry’s use of open records laws to request public documents from a few cities that are using federal stimulus money to run misleading advertising campaigns that single out and attack our products.  Today, we’ll provide needed context on the obesity debate.

We agree that obesity is a serious and complex problem requiring comprehensive solutions, but soft drinks are not the leading cause of obesity or uniquely contributing to the problem.

Here are the facts on sugar-sweetened beverages, including soft drinks, and their standing in the obesity equation.

Sales of regular soft drinks have declined by 12 percent from 2000 to 2009, according to Beverage Digest. The total amount of beverage calories that our member companies have brought to market decreased by 21 percent from 1998 to 2008 due to innovation and production of more no-calorie and low-calorie beverages, as well as smaller-portion beverages. According to federal government data, all sugar-sweetened beverages (soft drinks, juice drinks, sports drinks, flavored waters, etc.) account for only 7 percent – soda is just 4 percent – of the calories in the average American’s diet. That means Americans get 93 percent of their calories from other foods and beverages.

Yet, adult and childhood obesity rates continue to rise across the country during that same period, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Look, we’re not looking to fool anyone here.  The calories in our products come from the sweeteners we use to make them.  And while our products make up such a small piece of the diet, some activists want to assign us 100 percent of the blame.

We have demonstrated leadership by:

Cutting calories available from beverages in schools by 88 percent. Our companies removed full-calorie soft drinks from schools across America, replacing them with lower-calorie, smaller-portion beverage choices. Placing new calorie labels on the front of every can, bottle and pack we produce. We’re making it even easier to access calorie information and to help consumers make the decision that’s right for them. Providing more low- and no-calorie beverage options for consumers.  Just check out the beverage aisle in your local store for proof.

Obesity is too complex and difficult an issue to continue addressing with overly simplistic sound bites and mischaracterizations. We need to start creating the right context for this discussion. Otherwise, we as a nation won’t make a dent in reversing this serious problem.