Science helps keep us safe and healthy. The public safeguards that keep our drinking water clean and our children’s toys safe rely on independent science and a transparent policymaking process. And we all rely on scientific information to make informed choices about everything from what we eat to what consumer products we buy for our families. But the results of independent science don’t always shine a favorable light on corporate products and practices. In response, some corporations manipulate science and scientists to distort the truth about the dangers of their products, using a set of tactics made famous decades ago by the tobacco industry. In a new guide called The Disinformation Playbook, the Union of Concerned Scientists describes five of the most widely used “plays” and some of the many cases where they have been used to block regulations or minimize corporate liability, often with frightening effectiveness—and disastrous repercussions on public health and safety.
Extensive research shows that diets high in sugary foods and beverages are associated with increased risk of tooth decay, obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol, and hypertension. But despite the overwhelming evidence linking sugar with negative health outcomes, federal policy has not fully acted on the best-available science to reduce added sugars in children’s diets. Continue reading Hooked for Life How Weak Policies on Added Sugars Are Putting a Generation of Children at Risk
Executive Summary below, Read the Full Report
Scientific evidence suggests that the overconsumption of sugar—whether from sugar cane, sugar beets, or corn syrup—has detrimental health impacts. Yet, Americans continue to eat excessive amounts of sugar, often without even realizing it, while our current food and health policies fail to address this growing public health risk. Why do Americans not know how much sugar they are consuming? Why is the public largely in the dark about the harmful effects of sugar? And why haven’t we adapted nutritional standards and food policies in response to the scientific evidence?
This report explores how sugar interests—food and beverage manufacturers along with industry-supported organizations such as trade associations, front groups, and public relations (PR) firms —have actively sought to deceive the public and ensure that Americans continue to consume high amounts of sugar. Through the use of many of the same tactics employed by the tobacco industry, sugar interests from various sectors have intentionally worked to interfere with the science that links consumption of added sugars to adverse health effects by attacking the science and spreading misinformation. They have hired their own scientists and paid seemingly independent scientists to speak to the academic community and to the public on behalf of the industry and its products. And they have launched sophisticated PR campaigns to influence public opinion.
Sugar interests have attempted to influence policy in the direction of continued high consumption of sugar by Americans. Their lobbying dollars, political contributions to lawmakers, and influence on rule making at federal agencies have all contributed to a lack of effective federal and state policies that would address the public health concerns of sugar consumption. Decision makers seeking to enact such policies have faced uphill battles, as sugar interests, through a combined force of these tactics, have swayed our public policies on food, nutrition, and health. But solutions are possible, and a number of initiatives are already being developed and implemented in many places across the country.
With the public’s health as the paramount consideration, communities and decision makers need to adopt policies that stand up against political and corporate influence and are informed by the scientific evidence demonstrating the harmful health impacts of added sugar. Sugar interests should be held accountable by scientific and public health experts, investors, decision makers, the media, and the public for their current efforts to obscure the science on sugar and its detrimental health effects. Ultimately, communities should be empowered to make democratic decisions about their food systems and public health.