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Want to see a real food war? This is the stoush to watch

In case you missed it, there’s been a minor food spat going on at Crikey. When the nutritionist, Dr Rosemary Stanton, called for foods to be taxed according to their carbon footprint, this, predictably enough, got right up the noses of the Australian Food and Grocery Council, as well as their friends at the Institute of Public Affairs.

But the real food war to watch is underway in the US, and you can read more about it in this investigation, “The Food Lobby’s War on a Soda Tax”, jointly undertaken by the Centre for Public Integrity and the Huffington Post Investigative Fund.

The investigation reports that:

Washington lobbyists have been enjoying a multi-million-dollar sugar rush from the food industry. Soft drink makers, supermarket companies, agriculture and the fast-food business have poured millions into campaigning against what they fear could be a burgeoning national movement to raise money for health care reform by taxing sweetened beverages.

During the first nine months of 2009, the industry groups stepped up their lobbying in Congress. They have spent more than $24 million on the issue of a national excise tax on sweetened beverages and on other legislative and regulatory issues, according to an examination of lobbying reports filed with the Senate Office of Public Records. The review shows that 21 companies and organizations reported that they lobbied specifically on the proposed tax on sugar-sweetened beverages — which among other things would include sodas, juice drinks and chocolate milk.

About $5 million of the money was spent on a national advertising campaign aimed at Capitol Hill lawmakers and promoting a newly formed coalition called Americans Against Food Taxes. The group bills itself on its website as a coalition of “responsible individuals, financially-strapped families, [and] small and large businesses” but its 400-plus membership list is dominated by industry heavyweights such as Burger King Corporation, Coca Cola, PepsiCo and Domino’s Pizza.

The heavyweight lobbying and spending is not so surprising, given what’s at stake for the industry.

In California yesterday, legislators were hearing arguments in favour of a soft drinks tax, including from Professor Kelly Brownell, who was the lead author on this landmark article in the New England Journal of Medicine arguing that there are “compelling” reasons for taxing sugar-sweetened beverages.

According to this LA Times report, one senator told the hearing that he wants “to end the Pepsi Generation,” and compared the marketing of soft drinks to cigarette marketing.

Brownell told the hearing that the landscape for the soda industry is not unlike what it was for the tobacco industry when governments began to increase taxes on cigarettes as a strategy to get people to stop smoking.

Meanwhile, Kellogg has announced that it will withdraw the IMMUNITY claim on Cocoa and other Rice Krispies cereals. The withdrawal follows this report in USA Today, citing concerns held by the San Francisco city attorney and prominent public health experts (including Kelly Brownell).

A collector's item...
A collector’s item…

Public health nutritionist Professor Marion Nestle wasn’t impressed by the FDA’s lack of action on the immunity claim, and said the city and state attorneys were doing the FDA’s job.  She also blogged “And let’s hear cheers for the power of the press”.

On related matters, the SMH is  reporting on a project by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists examining the climate lobby in eight countries including the US, Canada, Australia, India, Japan, China, Belgium and Brazil. The conclusion is that “big greenhouse polluting companies around the world, employing thousands of lobbyists, are exerting heavy pressure on governments to weaken climate change laws at home and slow progress on an international climate agreement in Copenhagen”.

It all starts to sound so familiar doesn’t it….

Comments 4

  1. VicCherikoff says:

    Perhaps Rosemary could also seek taxes on high sugar foods? After all, our mangoes are 18% sucrose, apples can have 14%, bananas too. And think of what’s been done to maize which started out as a wild grass the seeds of which were discovered to be edible. The ancestors of sweet corn are no longer with us, only the often bred and ‘improved’ varieties of increasingly sucrose-laden, watery ‘seeds’.

    The problem for us today is that we respond to instinctive taste drives for sugar (and fat) and breed foods high in these energy sources. We then pour nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium onto farmland followed by irrigation and produce nutritionally dilute foods with rising carbon footprints.

    Simple dietary changes such as consuming nutritionally dense foods (see http://www.kakadujuice.com/superfoods) such as minimally bred wild and near wild foods (acai, goji, Kakadu plums etc) from various countries can have a huge impact on health status.

    Now wouldn’t this set the cat amongst the pigeons if we taxed our so-called fresh food?

  2. Doctor Whom says:

    Australia is the member of Cairns group of countries which advocates “free and fair” trade and asks other countries to phase out their farm subsidies. But it is guilty of veiled subsidization. It may be noted in the context that Australia and Thailand which are guilty of veiled subsidization had successfully challenged EU’s cross subsidization of sugar sector along with Brazil.

    Australia exports about 95% of its sugar and Queensland produces 95% of the sugar produced in the country. The Queensland Sugar Ltd has monopoly rights over procurement of raw sugar from growers for export, a measure which is contrary to the WTO provisions.

    Although the applied tariffs on raw and refined sugar in

    Australia have been scaled down to zero since 1997, domestic prices of refined sugar are regulated through a complicated internal mechanism of distribution thereby discouraging imports.

    Over the past few years, Australia has introduced support regimes like emergency income support, interest rate subsidy and outright grants. About 444 million Australian dollar assistance was approved by the federal and state governments on April 28, 2004 under Sugar Reform Bill.

  3. Doctor Whom says:

    Sorry – thats from: The Financial Express New Delhi by ASHOK B SHARMA, Dec 2007

  4. Doctor Whom says:

    Soft drinks, and all other drinks, should be levied (taxed) by sugar(s) content. Would do us all good. No downside.

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National Suicide Prevention Conference 2014
Racism and children/youth health symposium 2014
Rural & Remote Health Scientific Symposium 2014
2015 conferences
#CPHCEforum
#CRANAplus15
#HSR15
#NRHC15
#OTCC15
Population Health Congress 2015
2016 conferences
#AHHAsim16
#AHMRC16
#ANROWS2016
#ATSISPEP
#AusCanIndigenousWellness
#cphce2016
#CPHCEforum16
#CRANAplus2016
#IAMRA2016
#LowitjaConf2016
#PreventObesity16
#TowardsRecovery
#VMIAC16
#WearablesCEH
#WICC2016
2017 conferences
#17APCC
#ACEM17
#AIDAconf2017
#BTH20
#CATSINaM17
#ClimateHealthStrategy
#IAHAConf17
#IDS17
#LBQWHC17
#LivingOurWay
#OKtoAskAu
#OTCC2017
#ResearchTranslation17
#TheMHS2017
#VMIACConf17
#WCPH2017
Australian Palliative Care Conference
2018 conferences
#6rrhss