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Soda sins?
April 09, 2014, 05:00 AM By Dorothy Dimitre

“Want to stop a dialogue in the United States? Just utter ‘Soda Tax.’” — Robert H. Lustig, M.D., “Fat Chance.”

A couple of weeks ago, we read in this very newspaper about “Soda Sins.” The complaint seems to be that many progressives, “while publicly proclaiming their love of personal liberation, politically they are acting to extend greater and greater control over the lives of everyday, working San Franciscans.” The horrible “scheme” is to institute a “soda tax” of two cents per ounce on some sugar sweetened drinks. That amounts to price increase of 24 cents per 12 ounce can, $1.44 per six pack and almost $3 per 12 pack.

When we read the usual conservative diatribe, it’s hard to take seriously when they talk about “morality police,” “nanny states” and “hypocrisy” and how liberals think that “San Franciscans are too stupid to be entrusted with decisions about what to eat and drink.” Well, let’s say indifferent or uneducated, like much of the rest of the United States. Not only do few people inform themselves about good nutrition, Americans are up against a food industry that does all it can to maximize profits at the expense of the consumer. Progressives are accused of believing that it is “immoral and wrong to drink soda.” Proponents of free enterprise at any cost dispense such hogwash.

So let’s look at some real “Soda Sins”. The statistic that “only 6 percent of calories in American’s diets come from sugar-sweetened beverages” is very misleading. Better to listen to Marion Nestle, author of “Food Politics” who, despite her name, is not affiliated with any food corporation. “The yearly per person supply 12 ounce soft drinks in the U.S. is equivalent to 442 regular and 124 diet drinks (total 556). On average, enough regular soda is produced to supply every American adult, child and infant with 1.2 daily 12 ounce drinks or nearly 200 calories per day from this source alone.”

The accusation is that the soda tax is a drive to crack down on “perceived immoral behavior.” After all, we are told that, in the fight against obesity, many more calories come from cake, cookies and other desserts and “focusing on sweetened drinks to lower obesity rates thus makes little sense.” Give me a break!

Apparently, we must not interfere with free enterprise no matter how a product may jeopardize health. Even if the product contains questionable ingredients, even if it comes from a corporation that uses all kinds of chicanery to convince people to use the product and even, in some cases, not following labeling protocol set up by the Food and Drug Administration, we must not interfere. We have created a monster.

There are a few things that those who indulge in such products ought to know. For one, “The evidence supporting an association between sugar-sweetened beverage intake and obesity is stronger than for any other foodstuff.” — Lustig. And in “Nutrition Action Health Letter,” April, 2014, published by the Center for Science in the Public Interest: “People who drank at least seven servings of sugar sweetened beverages a week had a 29 percent higher risk of cardiovascular disease than those who consumed no more than one serving a week.” Also, such products take the place of foods that provide nutrition and drinking them regularly can cause users to suffer from malnutrition — a lot of calories, not enough nutrients.

It has been found that the caramel coloring — which for years has been referred to as the “secret ingredient,” is potentially cancer causing. And then there’s the worry about BPA (an endocrine disrupter) in the lining of soft drink cans and plastic bottles that leaches into the product.

You wonder if those who spout off about the “horrendous” soda tax have ever read any books like Lustig’s, Nestle’s, Simon’s or “Salt, Sugar and Fat” by Michael Moss or “In Defense of Food,” by Michael Pollan. Does it bother them that so many of those in the scientific community advise against drinking sodas? But what do they know?

All of this highlights the greatest “sin” in relation to our food and the way corporations “own” the FDA, spending millions of dollars lobbying against the “Sin Tax.” In deference to corporate profits, I don’t suppose we in California should require labeling of products containing GMOs, either. But don’t worry, corporate interests are in charge and we don’t want to interfere with anyone’s right to choose.

If there is “sin” involved here, it’s described well by Michele Simon, author of “Appetite for Profit”: “Increasingly, nutrition science is being co-opted by powerful forces that stand to benefit from obfuscation of the truth.” Oh, well, let them eat cake!

Since 1984, Dorothy Dimitre has written more than 700 columns for various local newspapers. Her email address is



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