CSPI, Cities Launch Soda-Curbing Campaign
The Center for Science in the Public Interest, the public health departments of five major cities and 110 local and national health groups are cooperating on a campaign to reduce consumption of soda and other sugary drinks.
Dubbed "Life's Sweeter with Fewer Sugary Drinks," the campaign seeks to reduce average U.S. consumption of all kinds of sugar-containing beverages, including juice drinks, iced teas, lemonades and energy and sports drinks, to about three 12-ounce cans or 450 calories per person per week by 2020.
The three-can recommendation comes from The American Heart Association. Average U.S. weekly per person consumption is now more than double that level.
The announcement comes on the same day as the release of a study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finding that more than half of Americans drink too much soda, and that the problem is worst among minorities. Last week, the Department of Agriculture rejected New York City's proposal for a pilot banning food stamp recipients from buying soda with the stamps.
Health officials in Boston, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, San Antonio and Seattle say they are embracing the Life's Sweeter campaign as one tool for reducing soda consumption, which is one of their key strategies for reducing rates of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and other health problems.
Boston, along with San Antonio and San Francisco, has banned sugar-sweetened beverages from vending machines on city property. Seattle and Philadelphia, like New York City, have run ad campaigns driving home the link between sugary soda and weight gain.
The Life's Sweeter campaign's Web site, fewersugarydrinks.org, provides individuals, families and community groups with tools to reduce consumption of sugary drinks and help change local policies, including action ideas, campaign promotional materials and press releases. The campaign also has a Facebook site.
In addition, employers, hospitals and government agencies are being encouraged to adopt policies that would reduce soda consumption. These include stopping or limiting service of sugary drinks at meetings and events; removing them from government-property cafeterias as well as vending machines and/or raising the prices of these drinks; and removing them from recreational facilities and other youth-oriented venues.
Interlex, an advocacy marketing firm with experience in public health and behavior change initiatives, conducted research, branding, creative development and messaging for the campaign. Interlex says this is the first campaign of its kind to have been tested nationally with general and multicultural audiences.
The American Beverage Association, representing makers/distributors of non-alcoholic beverages in the U.S., responded with a statement saying CSPI's campaign "ignores the latest scientific evidence showing that sugar-sweetened beverages play a small and declining role in the American diet, even as obesity is increasing."
ABA cites various research, including a recent report from researchers at Emory University in Atlanta, using the CDC national survey data on diets, that estimated that consumption of added sugars declined by almost 25% between 1999 and 2008, and that two-thirds of the decrease resulted from decreased soda consumption.
That study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, estimated that total added sugars in diets, from beverages and other sources, had declined from 18% to 14.6%. The report cited the limiting of sugar-sweetened drinks in schools beginning in the 2000's as one of a number of factors contributing to decreased added sugar consumption.
ABA says that members' removal of full-calorie soft drinks from U.S. schools, with replacement with lower-calorie/smaller-portion beverage options, has reduced beverage calories shipped to schools by 88% since 2004. It also points to Beverage Digest data showing that sales of full-calorie soft drinks declined by 12.5% between 1999 and 2010, and Beverage Marketing Corp. data estimating that the number of calories from all beverages produced for the marketplace decreased by 2% between 1998 and 2008.
Adding that leading members now post calories on the front of packaging, ABA maintains that members' initiatives "are meaningful and will contribute far more to solving complex health issues like obesity than CSPI's sound bite solution that offers plenty of hype but no substance."