Nestle, Soda Politics

SPEAKER 1:This is a production of Cornell University Library ALAN MATHIOS: Thank you all so much for coming here I’m not going to need to say too much; all I think you have to do is look at this picture [SLIDE] to look at the impact that our speaker has had. Just a few comments: I’ve been at Cornell long enough to remember—and many people, probably very few would know—that we were actually a Coke campus [SINGLE LAUGH], and overnight—I mean, I’ve never seen a university act more quickly than when the contract changed to Pepsi and—every Coke machine turned into a Pepsi machine overnight, and I was a Coke person, so I was very upset about [LAUGHING] Yeah, so if anyone remembers you could—used to be able to—get Coke on this campus. So again, my name is Alan Mathios, the Dean of the College of Human Ecology, and it really is my great pleasure to introduce Marion Nestle. So I have some notes here, but I’ll also reflect personally from some interactions we had way back. So, Marion is a major scholar and public voice in the area of food policy, nutrition, and food education. Her work has examined the social, political, and cultural factors contributing to America’s rising obesity rates, and her books have diagnosed these issues in plain terms while putting forward realistic, practical solutions to major, major health problems. She is the Paulette Goddard Professor of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at NYU, which I think is an accredited institution of some sort, and she is also professor of sociology. Here on campus, she is a visiting professor of nutritional sciences in the Division of Nutritional Sciences, which is a shared unit between Agriculture and Life Sciences and Human Ecology. Today, Marion will be discussing her latest book, Soda Politics: Taking On Big Soda (And Winning), in which she details how soft drinks have bloom— have blossomed into a multi-billion global dollar—global industry with major consequences for human health, and what we can do about it. And just yesterday, the book won the James Beard Foundation Award for Writing and Literature, so how cool is that?! A round of applause [APPLAUSE] for that award. She has achieved great recognition as a public health advocate; she has served as senior nutrition policy advisor in the federal Department of Health and Human Services, she has been an editor of a Surgeon General’s report on nutrition and health, she is the recipient of many, many awards, including the John Dewey Award for Distinguished Public Service from Bard College, and the University of California School of Public Health at Berkeley, they named her a public health hero, and Forbes called her—and I love this one— “the second most powerful foodie in America, trailing only Michelle Obama.” And so, just a personal reflection, when I worked at the Federal Trade Commission, I worked in the area of health claims and advertising, and I was working with the Food and Drug Administration, the FTC, and the name that always came up as one that had great influence on the regulatory—the regulations of what firms should and could be able to say in their promotions and advertising—Marian’s name would always come back to us as a very influential and important part of the debate in Washington D.C., so I got to know Marian’s work, not—I didn’t know Marian personally, but I got to know her work way back in the mid 80s and early 90s, and it was—it’s a pleasure now to be able to know you in person, so again, a welcome to Marion Nestle. Thanks. [APPLAUSE] MARION NESTLE (MN): Thank you, Alan, for that incredibly embarrassing introduction, and thank you all for coming! Hello, everybody! I’m going to talk about my latest book, Soda Politics, which came out in October, and mostly what I’m going to talk about is what’s happened since, because you can read the book. But first I thought I would start with—[SLIDE] whoops! What happened to that? —I would start with why I wrote this book. The reason for writing Soda Politics was I teach food politics and policy at NYU and also food advocacy, and I’m particularly interested in the advocacy part of this, and as you’ll see, there’s a great deal—the reason

that the subtitle of the book is ‘And Winning’ is because of the advocacy piece of it. The first question that everybody asks me about the book is what does soda have to do with politics? And it turns out I can answer that question very, very [SLIDE] easily. Just last week—or this week—the candidates for the Democratic primary went head to head over, of all thing, soda taxes. I could hardly believe it! Hillary Clinton, despite the Clinton Foundation’s long-standing connection to Coca-Cola, came out with a statement saying that she was in favor of Philadelphia’s soda tax, whereas Bernie Sanders, who usually takes much more liberal positions on these things, called the tax regressive, and in fact made a statement about it that sounded just like what the teachers’ union says about sodas. So, politics, front and center! The reason that I picked sodas to write about [SLIDE] as an advocacy target is because in public health terms, they’re low hanging fruit. They are a really, really easy target; they contain sugars and water and not much else, and certainly nothing else of redeeming social value, and they’re international companies that are in every country of the world—I don’t think there’s a single country in the world that doesn’t sell Coke and Pepsi, I was in Cuba last summer, which at that point didn’t have relations with the United States, and there was no trouble finding Coca-Cola and PepsiCo—they have worldwide reach and are basically sugar water. And the amount of sugar is staggering. In fact [SLIDE], there’s so much sugar in soft drinks that I have trouble getting my head around it, and I finally just had to memorize that there’s 5/6 of a teaspoon per ounce. So, if you have a 12 ounce soda, you’ve got 10 teaspoons of sugar in it. If you are going to sit in front of a 12-ounce glass of water, you would be very unlikely to spoon 10 teaspoons of sugar into that—it wouldn’t taste very good—but the way that the sodas are formulated, with the bubbles and the flavors and the acidity, it disguises the cloying sweetness and people have no idea how much sugar and the accompanying calories they’re taking in. Now, the dietary guidelines for Americans, [SLIDE] if you read through the 200 pages of text and all the different screens online, you will come to a statement that added sugars should not be consumed at a level that’s more than 10 percent of calorie intake, and that means one 16-ounce soda for somebody consuming about 2,000 calories a day—so one 16-ounce soda has 49 grams of sugar, 50 grams is 10 percent of the calories in a 2,000-calorie diet—and if you have one 16-ounce soda, you’ve done your sugar aliquot for the entire day, so you can imagine what a problem this is for the soda companies, and it’s an enormous problem for the soda companies, as can be seen [SLIDE] by a graph of sales from 1982 [to] 2014: the soda sales peaked in the United States in roughly the year 2000 and have been going down ever since; they’ve gone down by about 25 percent, and that has been mainly due to the reduction in consumption of full sugar sodas, what’s called regular sodas, so that the current average daily per capita intake is about 12 ounces a day, one 12-ounce can per capita, which means adults, men, women, little, tiny babies, per capita, but about a half the population never touches the stuff, which means that the average intake for the part of the population that does consume sodas is 2 12-ounce cans or more a day, which adds up to quite a lot. And it also adds up to quite a lot from the standpoint of health, and one of the ways in which advocates are getting at sodas is that sugar consumption—this amount of sugar

consumption, and soda consumption in particular—raises the risk of obesity, raises the risk of all of the diseases for which obesity is a risk factor, which means heart disease, diabetes, and so forth, and I was in Mexico [SLIDE] a couple of weeks ago, working with the group in Mexico that is working on the Mexican soda tax, and these are very noisy advocates who put this can out in the middle of the big public square in Mexico City until the police made them go away, and they have focused their focus strictly on the health problem Mexico has the highest per capita consumption of soft drinks in the world and very high levels of obesity, and they told me—and I have no idea if this is true—that 40 percent of the Mexican population—adult population—has diagnosed type 2 diabetes, and they suspect that the actual level of type 2 diabetes is much higher. So this level of advocacy, to try to get people to stop drinking their sugar calories, has induced—the soda industry believes that health advocacy is responsible for the decline in sales and I’m certainly not going to disagree with them, and I first noticed this [SLIDE], and their sensitivity to the question of health advocacy, in 2007 when I read this interview with a marketing executive of Coca Cola who gave an interview with—to Advertising Age, in which she talked about how soft drinks—concerns about the role of soft drinks and obesity had become the Achilles heel of the soda industry—used to be that they could blame obesity on personal responsibility and say, ‘We’re not forcing you to drink sodas, we’re not putting a gun to your head and making you drink these things, if you drink them it’s because of personal responsibility’ and now they can’t get away with that anymore because— and it only works against their marketing and they’re just having a terrible time with it. And then their understanding of the issue shows up in another way. [SLIDE] Since 2003, Coca-Cola’s filings with the Security and Exchange Commission, in which corporations that are publicly funded are required to report to the SEC the factors in society that leave them most vulnerable to loss in sales, they’ve listed obesity as the number 1 concern about loss of sales, or the number one risk factor to their profits; they’ve listed obesity since 2003 And they say that the reason for that is because researchers, health advocates, and the dietary guidelines are all suggesting that people would be healthier if they drank fewer sugary drinks. Well, this kind of pressure and this kind of reaction has put an enormous amount of scrutiny on soda companies. [SLIDE] Soda companies are under scrutiny from the business community, as you can see here from Bloomberg Businessweek, they think the companies are bloated and they think the companies have to be much more responsive to health advocacy. The companies are also under scrutiny for [SLIDE] their marketing to children and the ways, the many, many ways, in which soda companies reach young children. The companies have promised that they’re not going to advertise, to children under the age of 12, on television programs that are targeted to children under the age of 12, and they are in fact not advertising on those programs, but they have lots of other ways of reaching children and they use those very effectively and almost every evaluation—in fact, every independent evaluation of soda companies marketing to [UNINTELLIGIBLE]—the effects of soda companies marketing to children find that they have many, many, many ways of reaching children and those ways are very effective and this is, this report [motions to slide] is one of those. The soda companies are also [SLIDE] under scrutiny for their specifically targeting their marketing at low-income groups, and in particular minority groups. And I titled the chapter in the book that deals with this issue “Marketing to African and Hispanic Americans: A Complicated Issue” because it is a complicated issue. There’s a long, long history of African American and Hispanic American groups begging,

pleading, and sitting in [at] soda companies to get them to advertise in their publications and to get them to hire members of minority groups on this—on their staff. Martin Luther King, on the night before he was assassinated, pled with the people who were listening to him to boycott Coca-Cola because Coca-Cola was not marketing to African Americans and was not hiring them. But these days, the most intense scrutiny of soda companies is coming, is aimed at the way [SLIDE] they are funding research. And this is sort of a[n] amazing development. Just before the book came out, the New York Times had this very large investigative report of a group at the University of Colorado—obesity researchers at the University of Colorado—who had formed a group called the Global Energy Balance Network, whose function was to promote physical activity as the solution to the obesity problem. And they were quoted on television as saying [paraphrasing] ‘Everybody’s always telling you to eat less, eat less, eat less, don’t eat junk food, don’t drink sodas—you don’t have to do any of that! All you have to do is be just a little bit more physically active every day’— something that I wish were true, wouldn’t that be nice—but in fact, it takes about a mile of walking or running to run off 100 calories, so if you have a soda that’s this size [picks up 16-ounce bottle of water], that’s three miles of walking, and a lot of people just simply can’t do that. Well, this article—oh, and this group was completely funded by Coca-Cola, they just didn’t bother to mention that—and this article was so shocking, it even shocked Fox News [AUDIENCE LAUGHTER], but reporters told me that they were shocked that Coca-Cola would fund something like this, they were shocked that independent—that supposedly independent investigators would accept money [from] Coca-Cola for doing research like this, and they were shocked that the universities would allow their faculty to accept this money, which shows you how little they know about how universities work. In any case, this article had an enormous effect and to Coca-Cola’s credit the president of Coca-Cola International [SLIDE] that an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal in which he said [paraphrasing], ‘This isn’t the way we want to position our company, this isn’t the way we want to be seen. We realize that the way we’ve funded these things is viewed as being manipulative, that’s not the way we want to be seen, we’re going to go completely transparent and we are going to publish the names of all of the individual scientists and investigators and people that we fund, and we’re going to reveal the names of all of the organizations.’ And in short order they did [SLIDE] exactly that—and o is it ever fun to read. So you can go online and Google ‘Coca Cola transparency’ and you’ll get the latest version of the website, in which they list the roughly 1,200 organizations throughout the United States that they fund, and some group called Ninjas For Health—I have no idea who they are—did an analysis of where the funding went and discovered that 55 percent of the individuals were funded by Coca-Cola were dieticians who were acting as spokespersons for Coca-Cola and certainly not saying anything about how people would be healthier if they drank fewer sugary beverages. Well the fallout continued; some of the organizations were so embarrassed by being publicly outed [SLIDE] that they voted within their membership or decided within their membership to sever their ties with Coca-Cola, and that was kind of interesting because Coca-Cola announced that it was stopping funding of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Academy of Family Practice, and the organizations said, ‘No, no, no, we’re ending it.’ Coca-Cola said, ‘We’re ending it,’ the organizations said, ‘We’re ending it,’ it’s hard to figure out who went first, but in any case it’s ended, and then the University of Colorado gave a million- dollar grant back to Coca-Cola and said they just couldn’t accept the money under those terms—that, as I said, if you know anything about universities, you

know how shocking that is. Then the chief scientist at Coca-Cola [SLIDE] who had brokered all of this resigned. I mean, I assume she was fired, but it was announced as a leaving, a departure, and a resignation, and she was quoted in an article in New York Times as making a statement about what they were trying to do with the Global Energy Balance Network: it was like a political campaign, they wanted to develop, deploy, and evolve a powerful and multi-faceted strategy to counter radical organizations and their proponents, by which I assume [raises hand] she means me, but in any case, she’s no longer with the company. And then Coca-Cola pulled the plug [SLIDE] on the Global Energy Balance, it removed them—its funding from the Global Energy Balance and the network dissolved and no longer exists. More recently, Coca-Cola has updated its list, [SLIDE] so that if you go on the list, you’ll find organizations listed now that weren’t listed the first time around, and it revealed that all together between 2010 and 2015, it had spent 133 million dollars funding these organizations and funding the individuals that it had working for them So, one of the questions is what’s wrong with this kind of funding, And I think there are many, many examples that I discuss throughout the book that describe organizations or government agencies that were planning to do soda taxes and got a big grant from Coca-Cola and suddenly dropped the idea, and I guess one of those was in Philadelphia, where the mayor of some years ago—a few years ago decided that he was going to try to institute a soda tax, and Coca-Cola came in and gave a 10-million-dollar grant to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and that was the end of it. They dropped it, although the current mayor is starting it again again. Well, for two months this winter, [SLIDE] I was in Australia and giving talks like this about the book, and talking to people about soda politics, and I was interviewed by a reporter—came to my talk and did an interview with me, and during the course of my talks and in the interview, I mentioned that Coca-Cola had revealed the names of all of the organizations that it funds in the United States and that it might be interesting to find out which organizations it funded in Australia— obvious, ask!—so this reporter ran with it, and started making phone calls, and very quickly produced [SLIDE] a full-page advertisement on the front page of The Sydney Morning Herald, in which he discussed all the organizations he had talked to, and who was being funded, and what those organizations were saying about consuming sodas. And then a group that produced a movie called That Sugar Film added up the organizations that were funded and discovered that the Nutrition Society of Australia was one of them, various university groups, and various kinds of food and nutrition societies were taking pretty substantial amounts of money from Coca-Cola—American organizations get much, much more—and all of that was sufficiently embarrassing and discomfiting that the head of Coca-Cola in Australia and New Zealand [SLIDE] was pushed to make this absolutely astonishing statement, which was [paraphrasing], ‘I don’t understand what the problem is; if you just have one can of soda a week, that’s not a problem.’ I would agree, I don’t have any problem with that. I can’t imagine what the central office had to say about that So those were the kinds of things that I at least predicted, or at least discussed in Soda Politics [SLIDE], which came out in October, after all of this business happened, and it’s a huge book, it’s 500 pages, it’s got 54 pages of notes. When I met with the head of Coca-Cola in North America, who’s a very nice person, he said it was very well researched. I was highly flattered [LAUGHTER]. I came away from the research on this book thinking [SLIDE] that Coca-Cola and PepsiCo are

schizophrenic companies; on the one hand, the heads of the companies and the people in the front office are genuinely interested in public health, really want their product to be part of the solution, or their products, to be part of the solution, to obesity and not part of the problem, are puzzled by the reaction of people to the kind of research that they fund, and are really trying to make it right. And I don’t think I was being manipulated in this; I think they genuinely feel that way. I went in October to Coca-Cola World in Atlanta, which I absolutely recommend going to— it’s a fascinating place on the—it’s located across the street from the American Cancer Society, you can see [pointing to slide] the logo of the American Cancer Society through the window—and on the day that I was there, there was a big troop of Tibetan monks going through—it’s a surreal place—but Sandy Douglas who’s the president of Coca-Cola North America, very, very nice person, incredibly proud [SLIDE] of the fact that their other calorie-free, sugar-free products are growing in sales, while the full-sugar sodas are going down, and they are putting a lot of money into promoting the healthier products. Whether bottled water is—we’re not going to talk about the environmental implications of bottled water or even about the environmental implications of everything that these companies do—I discuss them in the book, but just to go on with Sandy Douglas, very proud of the [SLIDE] enormous increase in sales of the 7 ½-ounce mini cans, in which they have put millions of dollars—of extra dollars in advertising, happiness is now served in many cans, and many cans are responsible for the very favorable bottom line, and the increased sales of Coca-Cola products of the United States, because they cost more. The little cans cost quite a bit more; they cost as much as the bigger sizes, and so when people buy them, they’re paying more for what they could get for less money, and therefore, the companies are still making money on it, and this seems also counterintuitive, but I was once here at Cornell giving a talk to one of the business groups here, and I mentioned something about how small sizes cost more than large sizes, and they explained it—it’s very simple if people want smaller sizes, they should be willing to pay for them. No, okay [LAUGHTER] alright. So, on the other hand, [SLIDE] there’s the Mr. Hyde part of the company, and the Mr. Hyde part of the company—I don’t know whether the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde ever meet each other, or have any kind of interaction at all—but it’s the kind of marketing activities that the companies do, that resemble the marketing of cigarette companies. And this is a slide from the Berkeley soda tax initiative, when people were giving lectures on the playbook of the tobacco companies, and how that playbook was being applied to soda marketing in the sense of recruiting front groups, doing lots of lobbying, buying friends, buying politicians, and doing all kinds of things to try to create a sales environment that would protect sales of the product. And the most obvious ways in which soda companies protect their products is through lobbying, and this is a [SLIDE] graph of so—of PepsiCo, because I picked so much on Coca-Cola, I should pick on PepsiCo a little bit—this is PepsiCo’s lobbying, from about 1995 to 2014 or something like that, with a big peak in the amount of money that the company was spending on lobbying in 2009, when the Senate was considering a federal tax on sodas, and PepsiCo, Coca-Cola, and the American Beverage Association, the trade association for the soda industry, collectively spent 40 million dollars on lobbying that year. So when the going gets tough, they put a lot of money into it. And I live in New York City, and I got to see Coca-Cola’s Dr.— Mr. Hyde part in action during [SLIDE] the Bloomberg soda cap initiative. Bloomberg,

you may remember, just had the bright idea of putting a cap on the size of sodas that could be sold in New York City at 16 ounces, and that didn’t go over very well with either the public or the industry, and there was an enormous amount of lobbying against it, in which the most obvious places were full-page ads in the New York Times [SLIDE] Typical of the way the soda—the cigarette industry worked—and all major corporations do, when— is to—the first thing they do is to cast doubt on the science. And so, this was a American Beverage Association advertisement, ‘Are soda and sugar-sweetened beverages driving obesity,’ not according to the science, according to the soda industry’s version of the science. Then they defended [SLIDE] self-regulation—’we’re already getting full sugar sodas out of schools, you don’t have to regulate us, our self-regulation is working just fine.’ And then when that didn’t work, they attacked the critic. And [SLIDE] this is the famous nanny advertisement that was put in by the Center for Consumer Freedom, which is a front group for the restaurant and tobacco industries, and this ad, you know, displays Mayor Bloomberg as a nanny, ‘you don’t need a nanny, you need a mayor.’ Bloomberg was asked about this ad on the day that it came ou,t and he said ‘Oh, I saw that ad That dress—I would never wear a dress like that. [AUDIENCE LAUGHTER] So unflattering!’ I was very curious to know how much money the soda industry was spending on all of this, because [SLIDE] I was following the anti-soda-cap activities very closely, and there were a lot of college students who were out on the streets of New York wearing these t-shirts–‘I picked my beverage all by myself’–and they were collecting signatures on petitions to overturn the soda cap, or to defeat the soda capper, to get rid of it, and my graduate student went out and interviewed them and asked them how much money they were making, they were making thirty dollars an hour— so I got very curious about how much money was being spent, and then of course [SLIDE], the soda industry took the city to court, and on various technicalities, the soda industry won and the soda cap was over. I think they must have spent a fortune on it, an absolute fortune, and I really would like to know how much it was, but nobody can tell me that. But [SLIDE] it wasn’t an election. If it’s an election, then the companies have to reveal how much money they’re spending, and in the Berkeley and San Francisco soda tax fights of 2 years ago, they had to report how much money they were spending and in total they spent 11 million dollars to fight the soda tax in San Francisco, which was defeated, and the soda tax in Berkeley, which won actually So, the question is why is the soda industry willing to spend this completely ridiculous amount of money to fight these kinds of initiatives, and a lot of this has to do, I think, with global trends [SLIDE]. The sales of sodas are going down in the United States, and they’re going down in Australia and New Zealand as well. They’re going up everywhere else in the world. And the soda companies, like the cigarette companies, have moved their marketing overseas Center for Science in the Public Interest, which is an advocacy group in Washington, D.C., has just done a [SLIDE] report on the soda industry’s marketing of products in developing countries called “Carbonating The World,” and they count up the amount of money that the soda industry is spending to market its products overseas. I’ve been collecting this information for several years, and here [SLIDE] are a couple of examples: ‘India Has 1.2 Billion People, But Not Enough Drink Coke,’ and it talks about the amount of money that Coca-Cola’s spending in India, and PepsiCo also was going to invest 5.5 billion dollars—we’re talking about billion dollars—in India by 2020 The most interesting one is Africa; [SLIDE] Coca-Cola has committed 17 billion dollars to marketing and development of product sales in Africa from 2010

to 2020, that’s 1.7 billion dollars a year, and if you just think about that money in total, and think about what that money could be used for in development in Africa, it gives you, you know, some idea of what’s at stake here. Now, I mentioned that Berkeley had [SLIDE] passed a soda tax Berkeley passed a soda tax by a vote of 76 percent, an astonishing majority, and it did that because it did fabulous community organizing—oh well, it’s Berkeley—but even so, they did fabulous community organizing, they worked in every single neighborhood in the city, they framed it as ‘Berkeley against Big Soda,’ which Berkeley residents could—was very resonant with Berkeley residents—and they also had a absolute guarantee from the City Council that the money would be used for child health programs in low-income areas, and that actually is what has happened—there have been, they’re collecting about out 100 thousand dollars a month in soda taxes in Berkeley, and that money is going into child health programs, so taxes have become a way of not only trying to decrease the amount of soda that people are consuming, but also generate revenues that will be helpful for other kinds of [SLIDE] health purposes Mexico has passed a soda tax, one of the most examined actions that’s taken place—there are evaluators all over Mexico to try to figure out whether it’s decreasing consumption—it seems to be by a small percentage, and now Great Britain has just passed the soda tax. And the money— these are revenue generating—of the Mexican soda tax was supposed to go for clean water, whether it will actually do that or not is questionable. And Britain has all kinds of things that it wants to do with the soda tax, but they’re catching, they’re contagious, the Berkeley soda tax is contagious, and lots and lots of countries are looking at soda taxes as a way to try to push back against soda marketing, and also to raise revenue for needed health purposes. So, this is part of the advocacy that’s going on around food issues [SLIDE] everywhere—this is just one example of all kinds of food advocacy, and what’s been interesting to me about it is that food advocacy, in the United States at least, started out as a way to try to get healthier and more delicious food available for people who have education and high income and can afford it, and it’s really, I think, reached a tipping point in which it’s switching over to something that’s much more overtly political and aimed at a much broader segment of society. So, these are the kinds of things that I [SLIDE] discuss in my books in general, and in this one in particular, and I’ll stop here and take questions or comments or whatever. Thanks so much for letting me present this to you. [APPLAUSE] [SPEAKER 1]: This has production of Cornell University Library