In a Wall Street Journal opinion piece, Coca-Cola CEO Muhtar Kent argues that soft drinks are not to blame for America's obesity epidemic, and a federal tax will not improve health. "The taxes, the advocates acknowledge, are intended to limit consumption of targeted foods and help you to accept the diet that they have determined is best. In cities and states across America-and even at the federal level-this idea is getting increased attention despite its regressive nature and inherent illogic," he writes.
"Our industry has become an easy target in this debate," he continues. "Sugar-sweetened beverages have been singled out in spite of the fact that soft drinks, energy drinks, sports drinks and sweetened bottled water combined contribute 5.5 percent of the calories in the average American diet, according to the National Cancer Institute. It's difficult to understand why the beverages we and others provide are being targeted as the primary cause of weight gain when 94.5 percent of caloric intake comes from other foods and beverages."
Kent points out that Americans have increased caloric intake by 12 percent since 1970, whereas over the past 20 years, the average caloric content of soft drinks has dropped by nearly 25 percent.
Americans also have become more sedentary, and he cites a 2008 A.C. Nielsen study finding that the average American spends the equivalent of 60 days a year in front of a television.
Where are all of the extra calories in the American diet coming from? "Research from the USDA shows that added sugars, as a percentage of total daily available calories, have declined 11 percent since 1970. Yet the percent of calories from added fats and flour/cereal products has increased 35 percent and 13 percent, respectively, during that same time period."
So watch out - beverages are just the first Congressional volley.