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Suggested licensing of US soft drink retailers 'misguided and extreme': ABA

By Mark Astley+

26-Jun-2014

Suggested soft drink retailer licensing 'misguided and extreme': ABA

The American Beverage Association (ABA) has dismissed a fresh set of strategies aimed at reducing the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs), branding them "misguided and extreme."

The ChangeLab Solutions’ National Policy and Legal Analysis Network to Prevent Childhood Obesity (NPLAN) Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Playbook , published in October 2013, outlines 10 strategies designed to reduce SSB consumption.

Among its 10 recommendations, NPLAN called for the launch of a public awareness campaign to educate those “not aware of the serious health consequences of SSB consumption” and limitations on the availability of SSBs on government property and in the workplace.

Restrictions on the sale and marketing of SSBs in schools, the prohibition of SSBs in childcare and after school programs, elimination of SSBs from kids’ meals at restaurants, and portion size reductions were also urged.

Washington DC-based ABA, which represents the interests of US beverage players including the Coca-Cola Company, PepsiCo, and Dr Pepper Snapple, labelled the report yet another example of misinformation on the impact of SSBs on the health of Americans.

“It’s misguided," Christopher Gindlesperger, senior director of public affairs, ABA, told BeverageDaily.com. "There is a lot of misinformation about sugar-sweetened beverages and this is an example of that.”

License retailers

The Playbook also suggested licensing SSB retailers to curb consumption.

“By licensing retailers that sell SSBs, governments could require these stores to limit the number of SSBs they carry relative to healthy beverages, to restrict portion sizes, or to set a minimum price,” said the Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Playbook.

“Although this is a new idea for nutrition advocates, the tobacco control movement has implemented this strategy effectively to improve public health," the Playbook added.

Responding, Gindlesperger said: “Again, it’s misguided and extreme. Trying to make people healthier is a comprehensive issue with a comprehensive solution."

“A focus on soft drinks, which makes up a small percentage of the American diet, doesn’t make sense.”

Gindlesperger added that the report's comparison of soft drink with tobacco was "ridiculous."

“I’ve never heard of second-hand soda," he said. “That comparison has really fallen flat," 

Soda taxes

Completing its 10 point Playbook, NPLAN reiterated calls tax to be added to the price of SSBs.

“Taxes can raise the price of SSBs relative to healthier options,” said the Playbook. “Economists estimate that people would consume 12% fewer SSBs if prices increased by 10%. Tobacco taxes have been highly effective at reducing smoking rates, particularly among younger people.”

In recent years, US state legislators and local governments have considered imposing tax on SSBs. Put to a vote, however, these proposals have faced significant opposition from the public.

“We’ve seen it time and again in the US,” said Gindlesperger. “Soda taxes have been proposed and they have never gone anywhere. They've all been defeated.”

“The real reason why these proposals go nowhere is because the public don’t support them.”