The war on soda
Published: Wednesday, October 17, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, October 17, 2012 11:10
The major U.S. soft drink corporations are joining the popular trend of promoting the health effects of their products. In the U.S., soda machines will begin to display calorie counts of each product when the consumer is choosing which drink they would like. Coca-Cola and Pepsi are the trendsetters, with experts believing that others will shortly follow suit.
This move by the soft drink companies precedes the possibility of a new law that is being discussed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which would force companies to display the information for consumers to see before they make their purchase. Though the soft drink giants are claiming they are doing this in the best interest of the consumers, there are some who are skeptical of their true intentions.
“They are seeing the writing on the wall and want to say that it’s corporate responsibility,” said Mikes Jacobson, Executive Director of the Centre for Science in the Public Interest, an organization that is extremely interested in food safety and nutrition in the U.S.
The Public Library of Science Journal, an online medical journal, also attacked the social responsibility advertisements, saying that they were “misleading” and attempted to “divert attention” from the health risks of their products. Soft drink companies are now being strongly linked to the childhood obesity epidemic, which is considered to be one of the biggest problems of the 21st-Century (as evidenced by Michelle Obama’s campaign against childhood obesity).
More attention has been linked to the soft drink industry than ever before, since the Mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg, made it illegal for soft drinks over the size of 16 ounces to be sold within city limits. This law was met with both outrage over personal liberties, as well as applause from those who believe that the obesity epidemic had finally found a voice. This law has fuelled more buzz about corporate responsibility and led to the ever-increasing pressure on soda companies to lead marketing campaigns stressing that this health issue is not their fault.
CBC News recently related the soda manufacturers marketing attempts to the tobacco industry; after smoking was linked to cancer and other negative health effects, the tobacco companies changed their marketing to be more focused on consumer choice, said the CBC. They say this is a similar shift for the soft drink giants. Alan Middleton, Marketing Professor at York University disagrees with this notion.
“Are they doing it so they are perceived better by the general public and regulators? The answer is yes,” Middleton stated in an interview with the CBC. “Are they doing it to disguise harmful effects? The answer is no.”
With the ever-increasing availability of soda for consumers, the sugar-filled soft drinks are not going away. However, as awareness and government regulations increase, it will become more difficult for soft drink producers to continue to grow their market. The war on soda has only just begun.