Last year San Franciscans voted down a ballot measure to tax soda, teas and energy drinks. Yet a handful of elected officials in the northern California city are determined to find ways to single out sugar-sweetened beverages to advance a political agenda at odds with the public’s.
The 11-member San Francisco Board of Supervisors is considering three proposals with the same goal in mind - to demonize beverages with false claims about health. The proposals would prohibit the city government from buying beverages sweetened with sugar, ban advertising of these products on city-owned property, and require beverage companies to place a warning on some of their ads in San Francisco.
Registered dietitian and beverage industry consultant Lisa Katic points out in an op-ed in the San Francisco Chronicle that the board is misleading its own citizens with the proposed regulations.
“San Franciscans deserve comprehensive public health solutions – ones that encourage them to make more informed and balanced choices in terms of nutrition and exercise – rather than restrictive policies that wrongly single out one product,” she writes.
It’s dangerous and inaccurate to send the message that sugar-sweetened beverages are a unique cause of obesity or diabetes. The federal government and science shows that over a 10-year period sugar consumed from sugar-sweetened beverages decreased 37 percent. If soda is the culprit for obesity, then one would see a drop in obesity rates during that time. Did we? Actually, obesity rates doubled. How is it possible that soda is the driver of obesity when rates of obesity have gone up as calories from sugar from beverages have gone down? The math doesn't add up.
Katic says the city should be helping educate people that obesity is a result of a lack of balance between "calories in" and "calories out." It comes down to balancing what you eat and drink with what you do.
“Classifying specific foods as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ is overly simplistic and can foster eating behaviors that result in negative consequences,” Katic warns.
The beverage industry is doing its part to focus on real solutions that will help people make informed and balanced choices without taking away their freedom to choose for themselves what to drink. Through our Balance Calories Initiative, we are working towards a goal of reducing beverage calories consumed nationally per person by 20 percent by 2025 by encouraging folks to try more low- and no-calorie choices. We put calorie information on the front of our products and are placing prominently that information on company-controlled vending machines and fountains nationwide.
Providing consumers with choices and information is the sustainable way to help people achieve a balanced lifestyle. The San Francisco proposal is not intended to help consumers, nor will it impact public health. Instead it attempts only to frighten consumers by providing misleading labeling about products that are safe and can be part of a balanced diet.