Sugar Petition Not So Sweet for Soda Industry

A new petition is calling for a cap on the amount of added sugars in sodas and other sweetened drinks.

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Coming on the heels of Mayor Bloomberg’s infamous Big Gulp ban is another attack on the soda industry, this time from The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI). A USA Today report says the organization filed a petition with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) demanding that the group define a safe amount of sugars that can be added to sodas and other sweetened drinks. The petition has signatures from 41 nutrition scientists and the public health departments of 10 cities including Boston.

Though CSPI did not specify what the cap on added sugars should be in the petition, the group said determining a healthy level for consumption in beverages is important to decreasing obesity, diabetes, and other related diseases. And since a 20-ounce bottle of soda can have as many as 16 teaspoons of added sugar—which is more than the American Heart Association’s recommendations for an entire day—the CSPI says the beverages are an important area of focus. The USA Today article quotes Michael Jacobson, CSPI executive director, about the dangers of added sugars in soda:

The FDA classifies high-fructose corn syrup, sucrose and other added sugars as “generally recognized as safe,” Jacobson says. “But at these levels they are being used, these ingredients are not safe. They are harmful. The FDA has an obligation to review the safety consumption of sugars and set safe levels.”

Unsurprisingly, the food industry has fought back. The American Beverage Association, the report says, is calling for similar restrictions to be brought against manufacturers of baked goods, cereals, and frozen desserts, and the organization issued a statement saying that one product cannot be blamed for a nationwide weight epidemic. The statement says:

“Everyone has a role to play in reducing obesity levels — a fact completely ignored in this petition. This is why the beverage industry has worked to increase options and information for consumers. Today about 45% of all non-alcoholic beverages purchased have zero calories and the overall average number of calories per beverage serving is down 23% since 1998.”

So while we would like to think that Americans are smart enough to think for themselves and simply limit soda consumption, the introduction of more and more sugary products (Mountain Dew’s new breakfast drink, we’re looking at you), suggests that’s not going to happen in the near future  And although we have to admit the American Beverage Association has a point—soda may be outrageously sugary, but it’s not the only thing that is— if a limit on added sugars in just one product can start to cut into the out-of-control levels of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease in our country, it’s a good place to start.