When the city council of Santa Fe, New Mexico, placed a measure on the local ballot to tax sugary drinks earlier this year, writes Rob Waters in Forbes, the soda industry responded quickly, pouring $1.3 million into the anti-tax campaign. To cover their bases, industry lobbyists also pursued a back-up plan: they backed a bill in the state legislature to strip local governments of the power to levy such taxes. In the end, the state language was added to another bill that sailed through the New Mexico House before dying in a Senate committee, shortly before Santa Fe voters defeated the local soda tax. But as a growing number of cities consider and increasingly pass soda taxes and other measures designed to combat obesity and promote healthy eating, the food industry has turned to preemption, a strategy used extensively by the tobacco and gun lobbies.
Taxes to reduce the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) such as soda drinks have been endorsed by the World Health Organization and are now in place in France, Hungary, and Mexico, and scheduled for Portugal, South Africa, and Great Britain. Such taxes have so far been impossible to enact in the United States at the state or federal level, but since 2014 seven local jurisdictions have put them in place. Three necessary conditions for local political enactment emerge from this recent experience: Democratic Party dominance, external financial support for pro-tax advocates, and a political message appropriate to the process (public health for ballot issues; budget revenue for city council votes). Roughly 40 percent of Americans live within local jurisdictions where the Democratic Party dominates, so room exists for local SSB taxes to continue spreading.
Citation: Paarlberg R, Mozaffarian D, Micha R. Can US local soda taxes continue to spread?. Food Policy. 2017 Aug 31;71:1-7.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest and the National Consumers League, both represented by the nonprofit law firm Earthjustice, filed a lawsuit last week in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia challenging the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s decision to delay a rule requiring chain restaurants, supermarkets, convenience stores, and other food retail establishments to post calorie counts for prepared food and beverages. FDA issued the rule requiring disclosure of calorie counts and other nutrition information in 2014 but, one day before industry was due to comply in May 2017, the FDA delayed the compliance deadline for an additional year until May 2018. Without menu labeling, it’s hard for consumers to estimate the calorie content of popular restaurant items.
Public health advocates used a little-known legal tool today to challenge a recent FDA move allowing a toxic chemical in food packaging, writes the advocacy group Environmental Defense Fund. The groups filed an objection to FDA’s decision to continue to allow perchlorate in dry food packaging. They also requested a formal evidentiary public hearing to secure an independent judgment of the agency’s decision. “Children get one chance at a healthy brain and the FDA’s decision puts that at risk,” said Tom Neltner, Chemicals Policy Director at EDF. “The food supply is already extensively contaminated with perchlorate, and exposure is going up for young children.”
Linking food to other issues and campaigns can amplify the power of food and other movements and increase the chances of winning meaningful victories. Photo: 2017 People’s Climate March. Credit: Mark Dixon.
In the four months since Trump took office, write Nicholas Freudenberg and Mark Bittman in Civil Eats, many of our fears have come true. Spiking deportation activities have scared farmworkers out of the fields and broken up families across the country. The threats to repeal the Affordable Care Act are closer to reality, putting farmers, rural communities, and tens of millions of others at risk of losing their health care. An executive order that claims to promote rural prosperity instead focuses on repealing ag regulations that protect farmworkers, farm communities, and food safety. And, across the board, Trump’s proposed budget would decimate funding to help make healthy, affordable food more available to everyone, especially those already at highest risk of food insecurity and diet-related diseases.
The only silver lining has been the loud, sustained resistance to these devastating policies. Even as this administration works to turn back the progress the food justice movement has made in the past 20 years, many are standing strong and pushing back.
Unprecedented and rising levels of industrial animal farming are undermining the highest attainable standard of health that is WHO’s mandate. During the 2016 World Health Assembly, Director-General Margaret Chan highlighted climate change, antibiotic resistance, and chronic diseases as “slow-motion disasters.” However, their fundamental link to industrial animal farming has continued to be disregarded. A group of scientists and advocates have written an Open Letter to the new Director General of the World Health Organization that describes industrial animal farming as a serious global health challenge. The letter makes the case that while the consumption of meat and other animal products is part of most cultures, large-scale industrial animal farming has gone beyond satisfying dietary needs and cultural practices. The extent to which we now produce and consume animal products is harming our health.
The Trump Administration has postponed implementation of the Food and Drug Administration’s menu labeling rules, but New York City is moving ahead with its own set of rules, reports Convenience Store News. On May 18, Mayor Bill de Blasio said that all city chain food retailers offering prepared foods, or “restaurant-type foods,” will be required to post calorie counts on menu boards. In addition, chain restaurants and retailers will be required to have full nutritional information — not just calories — for standard menu items available on site, and they will have to post a statement about the daily recommended caloric intake of 2,000 calories.