We have two choices when it comes to food. We can either feed disease or we can fight it. Unfortunately, many of us are electing for the former, and our eating habits, ingrained from childhood, aren’t helping. Sugar continues to be named among the worst disease-promoting culprits, and yet from a young age, we crave (and are rewarded with) cookies, candy, soda, and so on.
The WHO published a sugar guideline in March 2015 that targeted sugary beverages as the primary cause for global childhood obesity, specifically in developing nations where the soda industry is currently pushing their efforts.
We are, in many ways, brainwashed to desire the things we do — especially food. From calculated advertisements to grocery story layouts, our sugar cravings are being programmed into us. We want sugar. We even feel like we need sugar. And we also put our trust in powerful organizations like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to inform us of what is considered valuable for our health, what is working against it, and what we absolutely need to avoid for our safety. We try to be well-informed, but sometimes, if not often, it’s hard to know what’s valuable information, and who we can trust.
Reports reveal evidence that a CDC executive helped a Coca-Cola representative influence WHO officials to relax recommendations on sugar limits. Email correspondence between the two organizations was obtained by the nonprofit consumer education group U.S. Right to Know (USRTK):
The emails were between Dr. Barbara Bowman, director of the CDC’s Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention, and Alex Malaspina, a former Coca-Cola scientific and regulatory affairs leader and the founder of a food industry-funded group, International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI).
They allegedly show Bowman’s multiple attempts to aid Malaspina’s relationship with WHO leaders whose actions (think soda tax) were hurting the beverage industry.
As part of her job, Bowman must work to help prevent obesity, diabetes, and other health problems, but seemed more than willing to help the beverage industry sway the WHO.
Marion Nestle, Ph.D., professor of nutrition, food studies, and public health at New York University, and author of the book Soda Politics, responded to the CDC-Coke scandal by saying that the “fact that a high-level U.S. health official is communicating in this way with a beverage industry leader appears improper,” adding that the emails “suggest that ILSI, Coca-Cola and researchers funded by Coca-Cola have an ‘in’ with a prominent CDC official.”
She goes on:
The official appears to be interested in helping these groups organize opposition to ‘eat less sugar’ and ‘disclose industry funding’ recommendations.
The invitation to dinner suggests a cozy relationship… This appearance of conflict of interest is precisely why policies for engagement with industry are needed for federal officials.
Nestle’s book discusses how the soda industry is very much aware of the devastating connection between soda consumption, obesity, and obesity-related diseases, and once the truth comes out, they will no longer be of value.
For many years now, health advocates have warned people about the connection between sugary drinks and obesity, and the message has slowly but surely started to take hold. People are beginning to come to terms with the detriments of soda, with U.S. soda sales having dropped 25 percent since 1998.
According to USRTK:
Alex Malaspina, was able to ask for and receive regular input and guidance from a top official at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on how to address actions by the World Health Organization that were hurting the food and beverage industry.
The emails . . . reveal that . . . Bowman … tried to help Malaspina find inroads to influence WHO officials to back off anti-sugar talk.
Bowman suggested people and groups for Malaspina to talk to, and solicited his comments on some CDC summaries of reports, the emails show.
Bowman chose to step down immediately in response to the exposed emails, announcing her departure from the agency two days after it was revealed she was providing guidance to a leading Coca-Cola advocate on how to influence world health authorities on how to get sugary beverages to slip through the health cracks.
Her boss, Ursula Bauer, Ph.D., confirmed Bowman’s correspondence with Coca-Cola, stating that the “perception that some readers may take from the article [revealing Bowman’s dealings with Malaspina] is not ideal,” and that the situation “serves as an important reminder of the old adage that if we don’t want to see it on the front pages of the newspaper then we shouldn’t do it.”
Are we living in a world where we are constantly being lied to about what is good for us, and what is bad for us? That question seems like a no-brainer in today’s society, especially given this recent news, which exposes the sickening amount of power behind the corporate and federal regulatory agency revolving door allegiances.
Public servants must be mindful to expose what’s best for the public, not be swayed by what their former bosses and acquaintances say and want.
The soda industry is struggling to keep its head above water, and so it only makes sense that scandals continues to surface. But how willing are they to allow their consumers to contract diseases and die by pushing backdoor dealings to make a buck? Only time will tell.
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