October 21st, 2009 13:24 EST
Bill Gates, Smart Choices, Soda Tax, ADA
By Curtis Porter
Seat at the Table
A seat at the breakfast table goes out to Bill Gates for his address on agriculture made during the annual World Food Prize forum, in which he defended biotech solutions to the problem of worldwide hunger. "Some people insist on an ideal vision of the environment," Gates said. "They have tried to restrict the spread of biotechnology into sub-Saharan Africa without regard to how much hunger and poverty might be reduced by it."
ACSH staffers were pleased to see an op-ed in the online Wall Street Journal that highlights the hypocrisy of people like Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal and Dr. Marion Nestle of NYU who publicly denounce the Smart Choices food-labeling program despite the fact that its standards are based on USDA dietary guidelines.
Smart Choices is exactly the kind of program that Mr. Blumenthal and consumer advocates should be in favor of since it makes nutritional information more visible to consumers, " writes WSJ`s Allysia Finley. Lately, government officials have been pressuring the food industry to take a more active role in curbing obesity " But now that the industry is taking the initiative to promote healthier choices, the government wants to criminalize the industry for doing it in a marketable and profitable way. "
Ms. Finley`s article pulls the curtain away from the wizard in Connecticut and what his agenda really is, " says ACSH`s Dr. Gilbert Ross. The fact that Smart Choices follows government health guidelines is irrelevant. Mr. Blumenthal just doesn`t think Froot Loops should be marketed to kids at all " especially if it`s marketed successfully and earns a profit. "
A Tax Without Results
A study published in Contemporary Economic Policy reveals that existing soda taxes do curb soda consumption, but have minimal impact on body mass index (BMI), which is a metric used to determine obesity rates.
What this means is that a three percent tax on soft drinks has minimal impact on people`s BMI, according to this study, " says Dr. Ross. However, that`s much lower than the taxes that are currently being proposed. If they impose a high enough tax, eventually they will dramatically reduce soda consumption, but that outcome is still highly unlikely to have any effect on obesity. "
They don`t seem to care that it won`t affect obesity, " says ACSH`s Dr. Elizabeth Whelan. It makes no sense to single out one food as a source of obesity. Obesity depends on all sources of calories. If you remove one, people will compensate by turning to other foods. And why is no one talking about exercise as part of the solution? "
The ADA Opposes Harm Reduction
ACSH advisor Brad Rodu, D.D.S., of the University of Louisville takes on the misinformation in a letter to the FDA written by the American Dental Association (ADA) in his Tobacco Truth blog: [T]he ADA uses pseudo-scientific language to advocate for prohibition of all tobacco products, including smokeless tobacco " [The ADA`s] prohibitionist policy towards tobacco use is a disservice to dentists and their smoking patients; it denies them life-saving information about effective and vastly safer smokeless alternatives. "
In other words, if I had a smoker as a patient who said he was interested in smokeless tobacco as a harm reduction strategy, the ADA would say, "No, keep smoking,` " says Dr. Ross. How can they justify that? They say it`s not a "healthy` alternative to smoking. That`s partially true, I suppose. If you want to be healthy, it`s best not to use any kind of tobacco. But they are creating a straw man by saying it`s not a healthy behavior. We`re talking about saving millions of people from deadly cancers and other diseases caused by smoking cigarettes. "
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