How can Americans “kick the can” and limit our consumption of sugary beverages? This was the main issue explored at the first National Soda Summit hosted by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) on June 7 and 8, in Washington, DC. Nearly 250 people, including educators, activists, foundation executives, and public health advocates, such as ACU Executive Director Kathie Westpheling and I, attended this conference to explore the scope of issues involved with sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) and to equip ourselves with the information and tools necessary to help decrease consumption. Along with exploring the negative effects of consuming SSBs, various panels and working groups addressed issues such as the politics of soda, the impact of SSBs in underserved communities, obesity, advertising and marketing, and advocacy. Speakers at the conference included CSPI Executive Director Michael Jacobson, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, along with various public health officials, researchers, and scientists.
Dr. Jacobson started the conference noting that although we have come a long way in advancing knowledge about the dangers of SSBs, that we also have a long way to go. Soda companies, as noted in a presentation by former Coca-Cola executive Todd Putman, use predatory marketing in looking to sell their products to youth and underserved populations such as African-Americans and Latino-Americans. Genoveva Islas-Hooker from the Central California Regional Obesity Prevention Program noted in the session titled “The Impact of Sugary Drinks in Communities of Color” that the lack of access to clean tap water for Hispanics in her region encourages them to buy and drink soda, which is cheaper than bottled water. In public facilities across the United States, water fountains are breaking down, causing people to buy their drinks from vending machines. Although these are only small examples of the problems associated with SSBs, they carry huge implications. With soda companies increasing their serving portions and with SSBs constituting a large part of the average American’s diet, consumption of these beverages continues to contribute to our obesity epidemic in this country, even if we have become more educated about these products.
Empower yourself with the resources to help your communities and learn more about the campaigns and health initiatives that various organizations are undertaking to lower the influence of SSBs in our lives. Here are some websites, information sheets, and documents on the various topics discussed at the CSPI National Soda Summit: