Today, food police from the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI)and potato scaremonger Walter Willett introduced a proposal that would ban every regular soft drink in existence, whether it is a soda, a sweet tea, a lemonade, or a sweetened fruit drink. CSPI claims that sugar and high fructose corn syrup, two nutritively equivalent sweeteners used in soft drinks, should be struck from the list of ingredients Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS).
If struck from the list, federal government regulators would dictate how sugar could be used in soft drinks and other foods. CSPI proposes a limit that would prohibit today’s regular sodas. If you thought we were being unfair by claiming that food police activists wanted soda Prohibition, we told you so.
Unlike the Anti-Saloon League, which at least had the decency to use normal democratic processes to pass alcohol Prohibition, CSPI prefers to petition regulators—in this case the Food and Drug Administration.
That aside, the proposal is lunacy for several reasons. First, government data show that beverages provide only seven percent of the calories in the average American diet, demonstrating that CSPI’s attack on soda is arbitrary. In fact, people — including children, according to a Centers for Disease Control report — get more added sugars, supposedly the biggest demon, from foods than they do from beverages. (Strike two for CSPI’s misguided crusade.) And consumption of added sugars is in decline. Beverage companies have responded to consumers’ health concerns by offering a wider selection of drinks.
That’s not enough for CSPI, which still labels zero-calorie sweeteners as “avoid” ingredients in its Chemical Cuisine report. The Prohibitionist then, and the soda Prohibitionist today, has but one ham-handed solution: Prohibition, come hell or high (sweetened) water.