CHOICE membership

Has the Sugar Industry Been Sponsoring 'Fat is Bad' For Their Own Profit?

Agreed you can consume smallish quantities of some products with added sugar without too many effects, but I’m pretty sure tooth decay is a significant problem associated with things like sugary fizzy drinks, even if you do enough exercise to burn the kJ.

4 Likes

The problem is not eating a little bit. The problem is that they’re so addictive and there is no need for them. If you’re brought up on added sugar it’s almost impossible to give up.

Let’s take our sugar apologist George Christensen.

GEORGE CHRISTENSEN: I’m a fat bloke, right? You know, I’ve been fat ever since I was probably about 20, 21. I don’t blame the sugar industry. I don’t blame Coca-Cola. I don’t blame XXXX or Bundaberg rum I don’t blame them. I blame myself for putting that product down my gob. That’s what caused it, me myself and I, and I think that a lot of the issue with obesity has got to come back to telling people that they are personally responsible for the choices they make. 20% on a $2.00 can of Coke, we’re talking about an extra 20 cents, is that really going to stop someone from buying a can of Coke?

He’s a textbook example of someone who has lost control of his eating due to the addictive nature of sugar. He simply couldn’t follow his own advice regarding “choices” and needed to resort to surgery. Do as I say, not as I do. I don’t blame him for not being able to control his choices, I’ve been there and it’s almost impossible to control the craving for it. Consider the stats on just how unsuccessful people are at dropping to a healthy weight once they are obese, it rarely happens.

George had surgery, is that the solution for everyone?? We have millions of people in this country headed towards obesity if they aren’t already there. Strengthening messaging around moderation might be a good start, but it’s messaging we’ve had for a long time with worsening public health.

Edit: While i’m usually loath to play the messenger, in this instance I’ll go there as he does hold himself up as an example of someone who feels “personally responsible for the choices they make” in regards to this issue.

5 Likes

As I commented to my wife during the program, I think all that excess consumption wrecked his maths too, 20% of $2 = 40c, not 20c.

Education isn’t working, so I think a sugar tax is another possible action to take. It needs to be significant though, not just a token amount.

4 Likes

Maybe he was having a sugar crash??

Agree, but you’ve got to start somewhere. It’s not just about paying a little more, it’s also about the messaging that this sends. That is; Sugary drinks are not ok.

There is no benefit to drinking them and they can become addictive.

Believe me, I’m no fan of consumers paying more for anything unless there is an extremely good reason. In this instance, I would see the need for a deterrent, by way of a price increase, as the lesser of two evils when you consider the cost to the public from the obesity epidemic.

4 Likes

The benefit of a tax is the user may at least pay, even if a small amount, something towards the treatment of the issues likely to follow in their health, but I am hesitant to think that it will go towards that…

With the continuing rise of prices for food etc the tax will be quickly accepted as the norm and most will ignore the added cost some short time later and just grumble about the total price. Look at petrol pricing, who do we mostly blame for the cost of petrol, the fuel companies. Yet where is a huge amount of that cost embedded in that price…taxes, GST, levies, excise and who gets that? Do we stop buying petrol, do many of us really change our habits, and does the money the Governments raise get spent on actually doing something about curbing our usage?

So yes put the tax in place, but make it huge so we really scream from the hip pocket pain (make the can not $2.40 make it $5.00, $10 or more), and quarantine it to treat the issue and don’t let it get funneled into paying for the next electoral pork barrelling.

1 Like
1 Like

Yes exactly @phb we need to really slam it rather than pussyfooting around the issue. People pay taxes and they grumble but they just go on paying and working and nothing really changes. The penalty has to be so big that people stop mid stride and really debate the need. Legislate the sugar content, ban it in anything it really isn’t needed in. Go back to WWII strategies and require ration coupons to get it if needed. Make Sugar Cane growers change what they grow and reduce or remove the sugar growing that isn’t essential.

They even try to jump on the health bandwagon with low GI sugar “LoGICane” but really… Take a read of this article and know why it really isn’t the answer.

4 Likes

Or they can keep making it by the (sugar) train load to produce cheap ethanol/methanol as a cheap fuel or to produce hydrogen for future energy needs.

I think in Australia lessons can be learnt from alcohol excise. While the excisenis very high in comparison to most taxes (with exceptiin possibly of fuel), these high excises (taxes) don’t overly curb excessive drinking nor the problems it causes.

A 10 to 20% sugar tax has been thrown about but this is not really going to affect overall consumption. We are a wealthy country and if one wants something (like alcohol), one will pay a premium to get it irrespective if it impacts on the household budget.

4 Likes

Yes as a cheap way to renewable fuel I agree but ban it for anything else it is not essential to, make them justify every addition to products where it is used and make it stringent in application of that justification process.

USA showed how prohibition didn’t work, so not a total ban but if you want it it must be so high a cost to you that it pays the health industry costs of treating the ill effects. Like I also said above if the tax is paid it must go to the process of fixing the problem and not squandered on Pollie Perks.

3 Likes

As is giving a baby/toddler fruit juice in his/her bottle all the time! Some parents still don’t understand that but get hot about soft drinks.

5 Likes

Just chucking sugar tax on will simply hike the price of all beverages equally. If a shop has “cans $3”, might as well get the sugary one if it’s the same price. Doesn’t discourage sugar consumption.

Instead, perhaps there should be an explicit requirement that sugary drinks be more expensive at the point of sale than sugar free.

$2 diet Coke or just water becomes far more appealing when the sugary one is $2.50 or more.

Are you sure that is better policy at the end of the day?

2 Likes

Perhaps relatively cheap to produce vs petrol, but not really all that environmentally friendly given the processes involved to produce it- diesel for the tractors and transport, coal-fired electricity in the refinery and fermentation facility (although burning of bagasse can be used to reduce this), fertiliser/nutrient runoff onto the Great Barrier Reef, acid-sulphate soil disturbance causing sulphuric acid run-off, etc.
I’m not sure if the energy in the produced ethanol is all that much greater than the energy required to produce it - I’ve read that it was fairly marginal 10 or 20 years ago, perhaps it has improved.

2 Likes

Let me start by saying that I agree that excessive sugar intake is bad. The problem is not a black or white one. Taxing sugary beverages is not the answer. It can be part of the answer, but by itself for the reasons elucidated above it will not work alone.

What else is needed? Let’s start with the following:

  1. Incorporate nutrition education in the school curriculums.
  2. Ban all sugary foods from all school foods and canteens (unless a child has diabetes and needs sugar supplements).
  3. Immediately prohibit all the advertising of sugary foods such as drinks, sweets, fast food, etc.
  4. Stop the naming rights sponsorship of sports etc by sugary foods. They can still sponsor, but their name can not appear. I know that this will cause financial distress to sporting bodies, but it will break the artificially created nexus between being healthy and sugary foods.
  5. Mandate that water sold in bottles must have a cheaper unit price than the cheapest sugary drink.
  6. Charge sugary food manufacturers an ‘environmental levy’ for the cleaning up all their discarded containers/wrappers.

I’m sure that there are many other things that should be included in this list, but it’s a start.

4 Likes

Maybe consumers changing their eating habits/purchase decisions, like selecting lower sugar products, will force the hand of food manufacturers . In the short to medium term, this may result in manfacturers lowing sugar content of their products to meet the consumer appetite for lower sugar products.

Such has far more power and influence on changing the food industry, than a sugar tax or education program.

5 Likes

A significant sugar tax - applied at the point of manufacture will affect the amount of sugar that food processing companies add to food.
Currently sugar is a cheap ingredient. Adding sugar to increase the weight & bulk of a recipe; as well as make the product “addictive”; has become the accepted formula.
We need incentives to get manufacturers to change the formula/recipe of their products (put less sugar in them) and a sugar tax on the manufacturers is definitely that.

No one is saying it is the only incentive that can be applied to manufacturers.
Action is needed at the consumer end too - which is where this thread began … talking about the ‘fat is bad’ message sponsored by ‘sugar pushers’ for their own profit.
Education of consumers is never-ending, and the last few years the message ‘added sugar is bad’ has been starting to get through.

2 Likes
  1. Many fruit juice drinks are not pure - meaning juice from the nominated fruit and only from the nominated fruit. For example the manufacturers add pear juice as a cheap ingredient to “xxxx juice”, and of course pear juice has a higher innate sugars than “xxxx juice” does.

  2. Many fruit juice drinks have sugar/s added to them.

1 Like

My reference was to all juices, pure and otherwise, as well as ‘fruit juice drinks’ that are diluted or blended. Even pure juices have sugars and some are acidic, eg they attack teeth.

I won’t vouch for the veracity of this site other than it has citations in the pulldown and other references reflect similar numbers

This US citrus association site tip toes all over but finally gets to the point

How much sugar is in that serving of orange juice?
An 8 ounce glass of 100% orange juice contains around 21 grams of natural sugar and counts as a cup of fruit.

and from a blog-like site where all claims have citations

2 Likes

Yes fruit juices contain sugar, but I drank plenty of orange and apple juice as a child (and was never overweight), as I suspect did most other children at the time, yet obesity levels were much lower then (60s-70s) than they are now, so I’m not convinced it is a big factor in the current obesity epidemic.
However, I was very active, and I suspect childrens’ lack of physical activity in recent times may be a more significant factor.

2 Likes

I was not explicit, but giving babies/toddlers fruit juices in their bottles as if it was water or milk will rot their teeth. Lots of parents fill the bottles with juice and leave it with the child for hours at a time.

Once upon a time I was ‘guilty as charged’. The paediatric dental bills were my retribution, as was the lecture received.

3 Likes