America’s largest soft drink makers have pledged to help win the fight against obesity, according to a September 23, 2014 article published by the New York Times.
Coca- Cola, Pepsi, and Dr. Pepper Snapple Group have agreed to reduce the caloric content of soft drinks by about 20 percent over the next ten years. They plan to accomplish this goal through alteration of certain product recipes, reduction in package sizes, and other initiatives. The large soft drink manufacturers made this commitment at the 10th annual Clinton Global Initiative, much to the delight of former President Bill Clinton who has been pushing for changes in the American diet to help curb obesity and other health problems.
“This is huge”, said Clinton. “I’ve heard it could mean a couple of pounds of weight lost each year in some cases.”
To help achieve these goals, the big soft drink manufacturers plan to expand low and reduced calorie beverage options and cut package sizes. They also plan to educate the public on calorie reduction through the placement of materials online, in stores, etc., advising consumers on what they drink and how it affects health.
Parents will be happy to know that the initiative builds on the soft drink companies’ previous commitments to reduce the calorie content of beverages sold at schools. Positive results have already been observed in Chicago and San Antonio where the big three soft drink companies worked to cut the calories of beverages sold in vending machines in public buildings.
While most public health officials, parents, and others applaud these efforts, others are skeptical and doubt the soft drink manufacturers’ sincerity. Marion Nestle, professor of nutrition and public health at New York University, is one such critic. He finds it hard to believe that the soft drink makers will stick to such a pledge considering how they have fought such measures in the past.
“While they are making this pledge, they are totally dug in, fighting soda tax initiatives in places like Berkeley and San Francisco that have exactly the same goal”, noted Nestle.
Similar doubts were expressed by health advocates. Kelly Brownell, dean of the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University, said the soft drink makers are making a noble- sounding pledge only because they can already see drinking habits moving in a more healthful direction.
“I suspect they’re promising what’s going to happen anyway. All the trends are showing decreased consumption of high- calorie beverages and so what better way to get a public relations boost than to promise to do what’s happening anyway”, said Brownell.
Sales of sugary soft drinks are, indeed, on the decline. But they still represent empty calories and any effort to further reduce consumption of these beverages is welcome news as the nation grapples with high obesity rates, increases in diabetes, and other health problems related to sugar and excess calories.