Ad Age Wonders if Sugar Will ‘Survive’ Regulatory Onslaught

“Large sugary drinks” got a reprieve this week after a judge struck down New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s ban on drinks above a certain size and in only some dining establishments. But sugar is still under attack according to Advertising Age magazine.

The cover story of the magazine’s March 11, 2013, issue was headlined “Public Enemy No. 1,” and warned marketers to “beware” because “sugar may be the next regulatory target.”

Sugar, along with many other specific foods, restaurants and ingredients, has been under attack by food police groups  and the news media for years, seeking to turn it into the next tobacco. It has been portrayed as a “toxin” by CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta on CBS “60 Minutes” and has often been blamed for the nation’s obesity problem. Most recently, MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski called it “poison.” Soda taxation has been a favorite of the liberal media as well and was called “good for the waistline and the bottom line” on CBS.

Ad Age noted that the Bloomberg ban isn’t the only regulatory threat to sugar and the food products that include it. “[L]arger initiatives are lurking in the background that could also affect sugar consumption.” They went on to mention that new federal dietary guidelines will be announced in 2015 and “if anti-sugar proponents have their way, it could also end up on the radar of the Food and Drug Administration.” Later in 2013, the FDA will be looking into labeling revisions.

Ad Age mentioned attempts by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) as well as the “media noise over New York Times reporter Michael Moss’ recently released book, ‘Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us’.” CSPI has been relentless in its war on soda in particular, including a lawsuit against 7Up in 2006. CSPI has also launched annual attacks on chain restaurant menu items and in the past campaigned against salt, produce, bread, eggs, wine, beer, milk and more.

“CSPI never met a regulation or tax it did not love,” wrote Business and Media Institute adviser Dr. Elizabeth M. Whelan. “How to solve the obesity crisis? Tax soda, ban its sale in schools, mandate that restaurants carry detailed nutrition labels on menus, and sue McDonald’s for luring children …”

At least the recent Ad Age story admitted the connections between sugar and obesity aren’t as clear as anti-sugar activists would have you believe. “Despite watchdog groups and armchair nutritionists posted their theories on Facebook, the truth is there’s relatively little research and data drawing direct lines from sugar to obesity and diabetes -- and when connections are made, the relationship is complex.”

Julia A. Seymour
Julia A. Seymour
Julia A. Seymour is the Assistant Managing Editor for the MRC's Business and Media Institute.