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Fighting Big Soda in Berkeley

My blogging always falls off the radar when I’m busy. But, this time, I have a good reason – I’m volunteering with the Berkeley vs. Big Soda campaign to pass a tax on sugary drinks in the city of Berkeley, California.

berkvsbigsoda

Sugary drinks – like soda, energy drinks, sports drinks, and even juices with added sugar – have repeatedly been linked to increase risk of type 2 diabetes, obesity, and tooth decay. Yet, the beverage industry (aka Big Soda) relentlessly markets these unhealthy drinks despite their harmful health effects. Deceptive marketing most often targets kids and communities of color. As a public health advocate, I truly believe that we need strong policy approaches to address the chronic diseases caused by sugary drinks – educational campaigns on the topic just aren’t sufficient to reduce soda consumption when people are inundated with Big Soda’s targeted marketing.

Berkeley is proposing a tax on distributors of sugary drinks to tell Big Soda that we won’t let them profit at the expense of our community’s health any longer. Revenue from the tax could be used to fund community- and school-based obesity prevention programs. We also hope that by raising awareness of the issue of soda-related diseases, Berkeley’s families and residents will rethink their beverage choices and sugary drink consumption will decline over time.

I encourage you to visit our website and follow us on social media to learn what we’re all about:

If you happen to be a local reader, please volunteer and donate. The decision on the ballot measure will be finalized at the Berkeley City Council meeting on June 24th. Let’s make Berkeley the first city in the U.S. to pass a tax on sugary drinks!

UPDATE: As of July 1st, the Berkeley soda tax (now known as Measure D) is officially on the November ballot!

July 1 tweet

Food Policy News: Week of February 28th, 2014

nutrition-label-artboard_1
Source: Food and Drug Administration
  • New research from the Berkeley Media Studies Group implicates in Big Soda in coloring media coverage of recent (failed) soda tax proposals in Richmond and El Monte, California. Their research found that the soda industry actively recruited community members – including pastors, business owners, and local politicians – to speak out against the taxes, making it appear as if opposition came from the community. Their ties to the soda industry (in some cases, these people were paid) were not disclosed. [Berkeley Media Studies Group]
  • The latest obesity rates were just released in a Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) report and show that obesity is decreasing in the youngest age group, children aged 2-5, according to 2011-2012 NHANES data. Although the NYT emphasizes the 43% reduction in obesity among this small age group, the more important takeaway is that obesity rates appear to be leveling off (although increases were shown in some groups) and are still alarmingly high. [New York Times]
  • The FDA revealed the first image of redesigned food labels, the first major redesign since they were implemented nearly 25 years ago. The redesign is long overdue and there have been several other efforts to promote a more informative label, including front-of-pack labels (e.g. herehere, and here). In response to growing portion sizes, misinformation, and consumer concern about certain nutritional content (e.g. added sugar), the new labels will make a few small tweaks that will hopefully provide consumers will easy-to-interpret nutrition information. Importantly, serving sizes will not be the suggested size, but will represent the amount that consumers typically eat – e.g. 1 cup of ice cream, rather than 1/2 cup. Nutrition expert Marion Nestle supports the new design. However, some are skeptical that the changes will improve consumers’ ability to choose healthier foods, given that only a small fraction actually use the labels. [New York Times]

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