Tell the Soda Industry: Be Part of the Solution to the Obesity Epidemic

If the soda industry is genuinely interested in being a part of the solution to the obesity epidemic, rather than simply racking up a few public relations victories, here are seven sure-fire ways the soda industry can take to make a real difference:

1. Stop all advertising and promotion of sugary drinks to children under the age of 16.
2. Print prominent warning notices stating the link between consumption and obesity, diabetes and tooth decay.
3. Stop selling sugary drinks in places frequented by children.
4. Put in large print the number of teaspoons of sugar on the front of each container.
5. Stop promoting sports drinks as a healthy beverage.
6. Charge more for sugary drinks than equivalent no-calorie beverages.
7. Stop promoting the sale of sugary drinks at store entrances, checkout aisles, and on store windows.

Tell the CEO's of the "Big 3" that you want them to be a "REAL" part of the solution!
If your company is genuinely interested in being a part of the solution to the obesity epidemic, rather than simply racking up a few public relations victories, here are seven sure-fire ways that would make a real difference:

1. Stop all advertising and promotion of sugary drinks to children under the age of 16.

The beverage industry spends over $600 million annually to promote sugary drinks to children and teens. Beginning with the "soda wars" of the 1970s, Coke and Pepsi have engaged in no-holds-barred marketing campaigns that enlist the biggest sports, music and TV stars to pitch their products to youth. In recent years, soda companies have begun using social media and computer games to attract children. All marketing aimed at children should stop.

2. Print warnings on containers stating the link between consumption and obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay.

Unlike other food items, soda delivers no nutritional benefits. What it does deliver is empty calories in the form of sugar and/or high fructose corn syrup, along with an array of harmful health effects. Consumers should be warned about these risks.

3. Stop selling sugary drinks in places frequented by children.

Through their extraordinary marketing and distribution system, beverage companies have made sugary drinks ubiquitous, putting them within arm's reach of everyone. In settings frequented by children -- parks, zoos and recreation centers -- these companies should sell and promote only their water, milk and 100- percent juice products. That's not just good corporate citizenship, it is good business.

4. Put in large print the number of teaspoons of sugar per container.

Few consumers know that their 20-ounce soda has 16 teaspoons of sugar. Consumers can only make informed decisions about what to drink if they have clear, accurate and meaningful information. The number of teaspoons of sugar should be highlighted on the front of all soda containers because teaspoons are a lot more understandable than grams!

5. Stop marketing sports drinks as a healthy beverage.

Sports drinks were designed for adults involved in prolonged and vigorous physical activity. Through sophisticated marketing, however, consumers have been misled to believe that the "electrolyte replacements" in these sugar-laden products are healthy, even essential. In reality, the electrolytes in those drinks are nothing more than salt. Water provides the same hydration as any sports drink, without the whopping 14 teaspoons of sugar and one-third of the recommended daily intake of salt contained in the usual 32-ounce sports drink. Beverage companies should stop marketing sports drinks as if people need them to be healthy.

6. Charge more for sugary drinks than equivalent no-calorie beverages.

The beverage industry's ultimate marketing tool is price. The inflation-adjusted price of soda has dropped 35 percent since the 1980s, compared to an increase of nearly the same amount for fresh fruits and vegetables. If beverage companies were serious about helping to curb the obesity epidemic, they (and their retail partners) would ensure that their no-calorie beverages are less expensive than their sugar-laden ones.

7. Stop promoting the sale of sugary drinks at store entrances, checkout aisles and in store windows.

The Big 3 use their enormous marketing power and special promotional deals to purchase prime retail space that ensures prime product visibility. Any parent of a young child knows how challenging it is to navigate through checkout stands crowded with brightly packaged, heavily promoted sugary treats. Responsible beverage companies truly interested in becoming a REAL part of the solution would halt these harmful marketing practices and make parents' jobs easier rather than harder.
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