Fighting penny soda tax gets pricey – National Consumers League

Sally GreenbergEditor’s note: The measures discussed in this piece were approved on Election Day, 2016.

It’s hard to believe that corporate America would throw so much money fighting a penny-per-ounce tax on sodas, but that is exactly what’s happening in San Francisco and Oakland. The soft drink industry has thrown $50 million in efforts to fight this tax on sugar-sweetened drinks.

Sweetened beverages have been tied to diabetes, obesity, and tooth decay. Public health experts see measures to raise prices as a way to drive down consumption, which is the last thing Big Soda would want to promote.

These soda tax measures are proliferating. In June, Philadelphia adopted a soda tax, beating back a $10 million industry campaign petitioning it. Berkeley, CA passed its own tax two years ago. Boulder, CO is voting on a 2 cent tax today, and three California cities (San Francisco, Oakland, and Albany) will also have a sugary drink tax on the ballot. This is all happening as consumption of soda is slipping nationally.

These measures are similar: they would impose a tax of a penny per ounce on any drink with added sweetener, including soft drinks, iced teas, and smoothies. The taxes would be imposed on beverage distributors, not at checkout. Evidence from current soda taxes suggests price increases will be passed through to retailers, and, according to the New York Times, the price of a 2-liter bottle might increase 67 cents and a 12-pack of sodas would go up $1.44.

If the soda tax can achieve its dual goal: reducing consumption of sweetened drinks and using the proceeds for community and health initiatives, then this will be a success. NCL supports these efforts, and we wait eagerly to see whether both of these laudable goals will be achieved.

NCL statement in support of Congresswoman Pingree’s Food Recovery Act – National Consumers League

December 18, 2015

Contact: Cindy Hoang, National Consumers League, cindyh@nclnet.org or (202) 207-2832

Washington, DC–In September, the USDA and EPA announced a national commitment to reducing food waste by 50 percent by 2030. However, we are lacking the comprehensive strategies that must be in place and it is hard for stakeholders to know where to start. We are pleased to support Congresswoman Chellie Pingree’s groundbreaking bill, the Food Recovery Act, aimed at reaching this national goal.

The Food Recovery Act (HR H.R.4184)  is organized by four major stakeholder groups; farms, retail and restaurants, schools and institutions, and consumers and local infrastructure. Framing legislation in such a way, presents stakeholders with policy solutions that are relevant and achievable. Solutions include standardizing date labeling, increasing funding for larger-scale state composting, and strengthening the Good Samaritan Food Donation Act, which encourages companies and organizations to donate food by protecting them from criminal and civil liability.

The issue of food waste is real and mounting. It’s easy to get discouraged when confronted with numbers such as: 40 percent of the U.S. food supply is wasted; the average American throws away between $28-433 of food each month; and we could feed 25 million people if we reduced food waste by just 15 percent. The National Consumers League (NCL), along with other non-profit and government groups, are working to address this problem throughout the food supply chain and appreciate initiatives such as the Food Recovery Act from leaders like Congresswoman Pingree. We urge Congress to pass the Food Recovery Act to help move us closer to our 2030 goal. 

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About the National Consumers League

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.

Obesity doesn’t discriminate, but should preventive care be more personalized? – National Consumers League

obesity.jpgBy Ali Schklair, Linda Golodner Food Safety & Nutrition Fellow 

It isn’t news that obesity is an urgent problem in our country. According to a recent study by the CDC, over one third of US adults are obese. Education and health professionals have presented numerous strategies to combat this growing epidemic. Still, in order to enact real change, there needs to be a greater focus on how overweight and obesity affects specific populations.

Growing up with a brother with disabilities, I was exposed to the many challenges my family faced trying to help him develop healthy habits. Nutrition and weight were always difficult issues to manage. As a kid, my brother was very skinny. He was taking a medication that sped up his metabolism and suppressed his appetite. My parents would beg him to eat anything, even if the food was mostly fat and sugar. But as he got older, changed medications, and moved out of the house, he began to gain weight. Traditional weight loss methods have not worked for him. My brother faces a unique set of challenges, but he certainly isn’t alone. 

Obesity rates for adults with disabilities are 58 percent higher than they are for adults without disabilities. Additionally, obesity rates for children with disabilities are 38 percent higher than they are for children without disabilities. These numbers put adults and children with disabilities at a much higher risk of developing weight-related diseases such as heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and certain types of cancers.

So why are these rates so high? As is the case with my brother, many people with disabilities are prescribed medications that cause sluggishness or weight gain. Also, any physical disability affecting motor or balance issues, sight, or stamina can make getting enough exercise challenging. Many people with disabilities are sensitive to the taste, color, texture, and smell of certain foods, which can lead to limited food repertoires.

Along with physical or medical challenges, there are lifestyle differences that make weight loss for adults with disabilities especially difficult.  Adults with disabilities often rely on support staff, family members, job coaches, and nurses to help them through their day. Many adults with disabilities also have little control over their finances. This means food is often chosen and cooked for them, usually the quickest and easiest options.

The disability population faces a range of obstacles when it comes to addressing the obesity epidemic. But it is not just people with disabilities that face unique challenges. In its polling, the CDC has outlined how socioeconomic status, sex, and ethnicity can all contribute to the prevalence of obesity. Once we are better able to understand the barriers to eating healthy and getting adequate physical exercise, we can tailor strategies to address the unique needs of differing populations.

Watered-down lemon juice making advocates sour – National Consumers League

In a formal complaint to the Food and Drug Administration this month, NCL is urging the federal agency to stop the sale of four brands of “100%” lemon juice that were recently tested and found to be heavily diluted with water. NCL tested four products, each of which turned out to contain only a small amount of real lemon juice! 

  • “NaturaLemon 100% Lemon Juice from concentrate – Natural Strength” contains only about 35 percent lemon juice.
  • “Lira 100% Lemon Juice from concentrate” contains only about 25 percent lemon juice.
  • “Lemon Time Lemon Juice from concentrate” contains about only 15 percent lemon juice. The product states on its front label, “Contains 100% Lemon Juice with added ingredients.”
  • “Pampa Lemon Juice from concentrate” contains only about 10 percent lemon juice. The product states “Made with 100% Juice.”  The label also includes the statement “Natural Strength.”

Consumer advocates believe that these producers water down their products to lower production costs and increases profits. In the case of lemon juice, recent weather conditions have led to variability in the supply of fresh lemons —and lemons being harder to get has given unscrupulous producers incentive to dilute their products with water and add citric acid and sugars to compensate for flavor.

The label of NaturaLemon illustrates just how bad the problem is. The label indicates that the bottle contains the juice of 30 lemons! However, doing the math, the bottle is likely made with only the juice from 10 lemons. The incentive to cheat is obvious.

NCL has long been an advocate of truthful and honest labeling. Consumers who buy these brands think that they are getting 100 percent lemon juice, but in reality they are not getting what they have paid for. We hope that FDA or state officials will take action to ensure that these brands either clean up their act or are no longer sold in stores. Click here to read NCL’s complaint to FDA and view the laboratory tests we sponsored.