How does it feel to be a Sugar Lobbyist?

So, looking at the chart above, can you guess which year the idea of a national soda tax was floated about?

The chart, which comes from the LA Times, was used to supplement an extraordinary piece of journalism that details exactly how the lobbying industry can and does influence public policy in regard to food.

Within the story appears a gentleman by the name of Kevin Keane, who is the senior vice president of public affairs for the American Beverage Association. From my perspective after reading this article, all this person needs to make his public persona complete is a Snidely Whiplash mustache and an evil laugh. Some of his gems include:

“The industries in our coalition realized that this (soda tax) is a slippery slope, that once government reaches into the grocery cart, your business could be next,”

Right, because all of our food that way get from the supermarket is currently tax free.

“Cigarettes kill. Soda doesn’t,” Keane said. “They pick and choose the facts that support their view and they attack anyone who disagrees,”

Clearly Mr. Keane is hoping that the common lay-person has never heard of the scientific method.

“It’s scientific McCarthyism.”

I’m not even sure what this means, but I’ll take a stab at it: Is he saying that the scientific community, which would include nearly every nutritionist and doctor on this planet that recommends that overeating sugar is a bad thing, is conducting a witch-hunt against Coke and Pepsi, companies who make an excessive amount of money off of a product that provides absolutely no nutritional value whatsoever?

The American Beverage Assn. website for the campaign against the soda tax points to three studies in peer-reviewed journals that dispute a link between soda and obesity.

One was conducted by an author working for Archer Daniels Midland, a major producer of high-fructose corn syrup. Two were conducted by a researcher who now works for the beverage association; one of those studies was funded by a grant from the association.

Despite the funding source, “the researchers worked independently and their findings were published in a peer-reviewed journal. That’s the gold standard in the scientific community,” Keane said.

Wait, wait, wait…is he really trying to say that the research funded by Archer Daniels Midland (the research which, by the way, ended up benefiting ADM) was not biased by said funding? Yet the research which shows ADM products in a bad light was sloppy and reeked of Scientific McCarthyism?!?

Seriously, Mr. Keane. Do you stand in front of a mirror every morning and practice your “Muah-ha-HA-HA!!”?

Finally, let me point to this quote:

Keane also says that soda accounts for just over 5% of the average American’s calorie intake, and that blaming soda for the obesity epidemic “defies common sense.”

Some numbers for you, dear reader, that come from from Marion Nestle’s book What to Eat, which in turn came from the USDA:

Below is the pounds per capita consumption of sweetners here in the US, one in 1980 when HFCS took off, and in 2004.

Total caloric sweeteners
1980 – 120 lbs.
2004 – 142 lbs.

refined sugar
1980 – 84 lbs.
2004 – 61 lbs.

1980 – 35 lbs.
2004 – 78 lbs.

1980 – 1
2004 – 1.4

Now, this extra sugar has to go somewhere, right? But where?

In 2004, Americans spent $66 billion on carbonated drinks, and the soft drink industry produced approximately 52 gallons per year of sugar-sweetened and “diet” soda — or 18 oz per day — for every man, woman, and child in the United States. In 1942, the US annual production of carbonated drinks was approximately 2 oz per person per day, such that in the last 6 decades, per capita soda production has increased nearly 10-fold.

Those numbers come from Liquid Candy: How Soft Drinks are Harming America’s Health (Warning: PDF).

If these numbers are to be believed, I’m not sure how anyone can fail to see the logic behind how scientists can put forth the theory that growth of obesity in America has been influenced by both the increase of sugar production and a related increase is soda consumption, a product whose primary ingredient is….

wait for it….


Look, Mr. Keane. You’re full of it. And the worst part is, you know you’re full of it. Instead of adding to constructive dialogue, you throw around buzz phrases, red herrings, and straw men, while behind the scenes you throw around money.

And I say this as a fan of sugar! Though my days of soda are behind me, I currently have a book proposal out there that deals with the joys of sugar, specifically in the form of candy. I’m no saint here.

But you? Wow. Seriously, dude. Say it with me:


There. Doesn’t that feel more natural?