Posts Tagged ‘politics’

A Lot of Fuss about Sugar

NYC Dept of Health and Mental Hygiene

NYC Dept of Health and Mental Hygiene

…and deservedly so.

I’ve been reading a lot of Marion Nestle’s blog, Food Politics.  I’ve found her writing to be well researched, thoughtful, and sensible about all things related to food and, well, the politics of food.  Her book What To Eat is on the shelf in my science classroom, and it has been helpful as students research the pros and cons of fish farming (for a unit of debates in environmental science).  Through her recent posts I’ve learned quite a bit about the intricacies of sugar policy.  Complicated stuff.  Here’s a post of hers with some good background information on sugar (after her appearance on the Colbert Report).  But the main point of this post is about all the beverage and advertising ruckus that’s been happening recently in New York.

Marion is keeping tabs on the situation;  she has been updating things on via her Twitter account, and here is what I have learned from her so far:

1) the American Heart Association finally came around to recommending that people eat less sugar.  It’s amazing to me that this is a recent recommendation. But there it is.

2) the New York City Health Department comes up with an ad campaign called “Pour Off The Pounds” (that they’ve spent significant money on) to get people to drink less soda.  There are gobs of fat pouring out of the soda bottle, which is a nice touch.  See the NYTimes’s take on it here.  This ad campaign is related to the AHA recommendation (though not a result of it), as there are benefits to having fewer people run into health problems related to over-consumption of sugar and soft drinks.  Here’s an ABC News spot on soda and extra calories.  So NYC Dept of Health and Mental Hygiene tells people to drink less soda.  Tell people to be a bit healthier.  It’s like mom telling you to eat your vegetables and not so much candy.  Simple, right?  Ah, no…

3) the American Beverage Association freaks out.  They sell A LOT of soda, you know.  Plenty of sugar.  So they weren’t happy first when the AHA came out and said that people should consume less soda: their response (which sounds frighteningly close to those HFCS commercials, which were just uncomfortable.)  And then they certainly weren’t excited about this ad campaign: their response to that. “We can’t have NY telling people not to drink soda!!  It’s not our fault that people are fat.” (my paraphrase).  What a mess.

It would be naive to think that sugar issues should be more simple.  It reminds me of those “This is Your Brain on Drugs” commercials from the 80’s.  There’s some history out there for shocking ads from various health departments.  Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.  Don’t smoke, don’t do drugs.  That’s not new.  But what would have happened if there was a response from the drug community after the “Brain on Drugs” commercials?  Like outrage, you know, a press release about such a prejudiced ad campaign…


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