New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has really set the cat among the pigeons – by proposing, in May, to limit the sale of soft drinks to 16 fluid ounces in restaurants, movie theaters and other public venues!
The latest to jump on the anti-obesity bandwagon is the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, which has urged the Surgeon General of the United States for a sweeping study of the impact of sugar-sweetened beverages on consumer health.
It has emphasized the scientific evidence linking a third of all cancer deaths to poor diet and lack of exercise – two behaviors also associated strongly with obesity.
Such a study “could have a major impact on the public’s consciousness and perhaps begin to change the direction of public behavior in their choices of food and drinks”, says the lobby group’s president Christopher W. Hansen in a letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.
“We know there is a direct link between excessive consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages and obesity, and the adverse health effect can be profound.”
Obesity has become a talking point in America after it was found that two-thirds of the people are overweight or obese and health costs are spiraling.
Obesity accounts for $190 billion in annual medical costs in the United States – or almost 21 per cent of the total, according to a study.
Sugary drinks have become the latest target in the fight against burgeoning obesity after the American Medical Association declared that 46 per cent of the nation’s intake of added sugars comes from these beverages.
Also supporting Bloomberg’s point of view was the National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine, which has called for more policies to reduce the over-consumption of sugary drinks.
The beverage industry is, as expected, not happy.
In response to the letter, Karen Hanretty, a spokeswoman for the American Beverage Association, said: “We already have studies from the federal government and independent third parties that demonstrate soft drinks are not a unique or significant contributor to obesity.”
However, Dick Woodruff, vice-president of federal affairs of the Cancer Action Network, says the group is seeking an unbiased review of all available science.
"There is an obesity epidemic. One in three cancer deaths are due to nutrition and physical activities, including overweight and obesity," he tells Reuters.
But, as Hansen points out: “There seems to be a consensus about the problem and the cause, but what is lacking is an articulate, science-based and comprehensive national plan of action.”
He is hoping for a repeat of the landmark 1964 report by the Surgeon General first revealing to the American public the dangers of tobacco consumption and which led to a drastic reduction in smoking.