More Childhood Obesity Conflicts and Deception

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It never ends, the stuff that goes on in the corporate efforts to sell us food. Here is a question: Why are they trying so hard to sell us what is, after all, a basic necessity of life? All humans need to eat, and the demand for the product is infinite. So, why do megacorps spend billions to sell us a thing we can’t live without? Does that make sense? Doesn’t it just scream, “Something is wrong with this picture?”

Not long ago, Childhood Obesity News mentioned the awards offered by the American Beverage Association (ABA) to programs initiated in the cities of mayors who are friendly to sugar-sweetened drinks. The mayors caught some flack for this.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) tells us,

Cities that take payments from the program would also be obligated to participate in a promotional press event alongside the ABA, according to the program’s materials.

Okay, so this is good, standard commercial practice. When a business does something that can be interpreted as contributing to the public good, it’s only natural to use it for public relations. If, via the ABA, the manufacturers of sugar-sweetened drinks decide to give money to a city, the city had best be prepared to give something back. It’s just business.

On the other hand, flash back to the old days when The Mob flourished in America. A mayor might have had to deal with organized crime. A businessman may have been compelled to exchange favors with the gangsters in order to get a license or pass an inspection. But on the businessman’s or the mayor’s office wall, you wouldn’t see a photo of him shaking hands with Guido “Guts” Visceranelli. Capish?

CSPI also tells us that at least one American city has a mayor who’s not buying it,

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter has proposed imposing taxes on sugary drinks, a move bitterly opposed and ultimately defeated by the industry. Nutter also drew praise from health advocates for turning away a $10 million anti-obesity grant that originated from the American Beverage Association.

Isn’t the dentist supposed to be the one who tells you that soda pop rots your teeth? That’s why a lot of people were upset when, back in 2003, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) accepted a million-dollar research grant from Coca-Cola.

Here’s how the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood phrased it:

The implicit message this AAPD-Coca-Cola partnership sends to the American public is troubling: If the protectors of children’s dental health – pediatric dentists – are teaming up with Coca-Cola, surely soft drinks cannot be harmful!

At the time when the objection was made, no funds had been committed yet to any particular research project, so the protesters wanted the AAPD to back out while it still could. The dentists were urged to:

1. Terminate their current relationship with Coca-Cola and return the research funds.
2. Commit to refusing funding from any company whose products are known to contribute, or are suspected of contributing, to children’s poor oral health or poor general health.
3. Issue a strong statement opposing soda pouring contracts

Soda-pouring contracts? Yes, the “pouring contract” is another large problem, also illuminated by the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood. Actually, the AAPD itself had gone on record as being against this idea. A school or a school district gets paid, and the beverage company gets the exclusive right to sell its products at school events, and to place vending machines on the property, “along with other measures that increase student exposure to beverages.” That “other measures” part sounds a bit sinister. Vending machines and ball games aren’t enough? They want “other measures,” too?

And, again, this makes a certain amount of sense, given the crazy world we live in. Tax money designated to support the schools doesn’t seem to be finding its way to them, and schools need all the help they can get. And to help keep order at extracurricular events, it’s probably better to have one vendor rather than a slew of competing ones. Maybe not fair, but from an administrative point of view, it’s logical.

But there is something definitely creepy and off-kilter about letting the soda-pop cartel pay for our children’s education. Even though there is a precedent. In South America, the cocaine mobs are said to be very philanthropic in the neighborhoods, supporting schools and clinics, and so on.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Mayors’ Group Urged to Ditch Deal with Soda Industry,” cspinet.org, 11/03/11
Source: “Stop Commercial Exploitation of Children,” CommercialFreeChildhood.org 10/20/03
Image by Radio Saigon, used under its Creative Commons license.

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