State Health Commissioner Asks American Beverage Association To Open, Public Discussion About The Role Of Sugar-Sweetened Beverages in the Childhood Obesity Epidemic

ALBANY, N.Y. (March 20, 2010) – State Health Commissioner Richard F. Daines, M.D., today released an open letter to Susan Neely, president and chief executive officer of the American Beverage Association, calling on her to meet with him and other health officials in New York to discuss the marketing strategies of big beverage interests and their effect on New York children. The text of the letter appears below.

March 19, 2010

Ms. Susan Neely, President and Chief Executive Officer
American Beverage Association
1101 Sixteenth St. NW
Washington, D.C. 20036

Dear Ms. Neely:

Recently the American Beverage Association congratulated itself for a "victory in the war against sugary soft drinks in schools." While this agreement brokered by former President Clinton is laudable, the beverage industry's claim of victory is "symbolic," as you noted in your comments to the financial press. Additionally, I note your acknowledgement that school sales were "less than 1 percent" of your total market "and would have no significant impact on the industry."

More revealing of the beverage industry's real strategy is the announcement by McDonald's yesterday of its "any size soda for $1" summer-long promotion. At a point when virtually every independent researcher and public health authority agrees that the under-pricing, over-sizing and relentless marketing of sugary drinks to children are leading to over-consumption, overweight, obesity, diabetes and premature heart disease, the beverage and fast food industries announce a further escalation in the liquid sugar price and size war in which the health of our children will be collateral damage.

The industry's strategy could not be clearer: lull parents into complacency with a symbolic announcement about almost non-existent soda sales in schools, then lure children into a new round of massive over-consumption during the summer when school's out and parents and children will replace school breakfasts and lunches with more trips to the fast food outlet.

Again, I call on you and your allies and experts to meet with those of us concerned with the obesity epidemic. Let's stop the sound bites, attack ads and symbolic sleight of hand and have an open public discussion about this problem.

Sincerely,

Richard F. Daines, M.D.
Commissioner
New York State Department of Health