Cutting Soda Size Makes Sense
By Ken Walker-
While Mayor Michael Bloomberg has (at least temporarily) lost his bid to crack down on the serving of supersize drinks in New York, the battle over America’s sugar-laden foods will rage on.
Given the limited nature of public discussion in today’s information-overloaded society, those opposed to Bloomberg’s attempt to limit restaurants and other outlets to 16-ounce servings decried the “Nanny State.” As one mistrustful of Big Government’s overreach (particularly after the National Security Agency spying scandal), I understand such objections.
However, it is worth taking a look at the recent Associated Press story about the appeals court ruling that found the ban unconstitutional. It includes a photo of Bloomberg holding a 64-ounce cup from a fast food restaurant.
Too Much Soda
Sixty-four ounces? Two quarts? In a nation where the majority of the citizenry is either obese or struggling with overweight problems, it is clear someone needs to hold up a hand and say, “Wait a minute! This is nuts!”
While I have never met Bloomberg and don’t presume to know his motives, I think he acted prudently in an attempt to cut down the huge dent health care costs put in his city’s budget. Costs that bear links to obesity and over-consumption of sugary drinks.
Indeed, it wouldn’t hurt to see other attempts to reign in our national sugar consumption before the resulting health care bills drag us into further red ink.
I found the logic of the appellate court quite ironic. According to the AP, the four-judge panel ruled that while the city’s board of health has the power to ban “inherently harmful” foodstuffs from being served to the public, soda consumption isn’t necessarily harmful when done in moderation. Therefore, the court said it couldn’t be classified as a health hazard, per se.
However, this overlooks the fact numerous New Yorkers (and others across the nation) aren’t consuming soda in moderation. One recent survey estimates that 50 percent of Americans drink at least one can of sugared soda daily. Imagine how many drink more than one.
Chugging the White Stuff
As Steve Willis pointed out in our book, Winning the Food Fight, the heretofore-normal 12-ounce can of soda long ago morphed into a 20-ounce bottle. And if you bother to read the nutritional information on the latter, you will find that represents 2.5 servings of soda, with a whopping 58 grams of sugar.
“Generally, 50 grams of sugar equals about a quarter-cup of the white stuff,” Steve says. “Would you allow your child to go into the sugar jar, take out a spoon and straight-up eat a half-cup? Most parents wouldn’t even consider that option…Children NEVER need a 20-ounce bottle of soda pop.”
Yet, in the name of “freedom,” we allow such unchecked consumption to proceed with little contemplation of its harmful impact.
The Sad Status Quo
In my recent blog calling for an end to subsidizing soda purchases for food stamp recipients, I mentioned Dr. Robert Lustig’s book, Fat Chance.
I recommend it for anyone wanting to get a better understanding of our nation’s health crisis and the obstacles to bettering our health posed by the powerful food industry.
At the top of the list of our problems is sugar, which is added to 80 percent of the thousands of products available on supermarket shelves.
Lustig says 20 to 25 percent of calories Americans consume daily come from some variation of sugar (22 teaspoons). Even worse, some adolescents consume 40 percent of their calories as sugar.
Kind of gives a whole new meaning to “Big Gulp,” doesn’t it? And before criticizing Mayor Bloomberg too sternly, recognize that the status quo will cost New York—and the rest of the nation—dearly.