Why the Soda Industry Is Still Full of Hot Air
Life + Money

Why the Soda Industry Is Still Full of Hot Air

Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Dr. Pepper Snapple have committed to reduce calories in their sodas by 20 percent by 2025. The soda industry’s big announcement – which was voluntary – came Tuesday at the Clinton Global Initiative in New York as part of the Alliance for Healthier Generation.

It “will help transform the beverage landscape in America,” said Susan K. Neely, CEO of the American Beverage Association, in a statement. “It takes our efforts to provide consumers with more choices, smaller portions and fewer calories to an ambitious new level.” However, health advocates say this doesn’t go far enough to address the issue of sugary drinks and the resulting health problems, including obesity and diabetes. 

“The soft drink industry is up to its old tricks again, and this is nothing more than a PR stunt,” noted Fooducate, a website focused on healthy food and better eating habits. 

Related: Berkeley Mulls Soda Tax to Fight Obesity 

“We need much bigger and faster reductions to adequately protect the public’s health,” the advocacy group Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) said in a release

Sales of non-diet soda have fallen by about 15 percent since 1998 and that trend is expected to continue. “This means that a 20-percent calorie reduction was likely going to happen in any case,” Fooducate noted. 

Here are some steps the three companies have said they’ll take to reduce the beverage calories consumed per person: 

  • Reduce portion sizes.
  • Promote consumption of water products and other lower-calorie beverages.
  • Engage in consumer education and outreach efforts to increase awareness of calories in sodas.
  • Retain an independent third-party evaluator to track their progress.   

Related: The 9 Highest Calorie Fast Food Meals 

But here is what health advocates believe should be done: 

  • Drop opposition to taxes and to warning labels on sugary drinks. The revenue raised from taxes could go toward funding the prevention and treatment of soda-related diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and obesity, says CSPI.
  • Commit to calorie labeling on all vending machines, not just a third of them.
  • Stop marketing to kids and using athletes and other “cool” celebrities in advertising. 

Related: Here’s What Your Supermarket Will Look Like in 50 Years 

Coca-Cola is releasing a new version of Coke and Coca-Cola Life in the U.K. in the fall. The new beverage was introduced in Argentina and Chile last year. With Coca-Cola Life, the company has replaced some of the sugar with stevia. Although it is a natural sweetener, it doesn’t mean it’s safe either, as the National Center for Biotechnology Information noted a few years ago. 

As health advocates recommend, drinking tap water (purified if necessary) is still the best way to cut calories, stay healthy and reduce waste. 

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