In our January/February issue of the Washington Montly, Leah Douglas has a review of a new book by Marion Nestle, a nutritionist and professor of sociology and food systems at New York University. Soda Politics: Taking on Big Soda (And Winning) details some of the successes in reducing soda consumption, from reducing its availability in schools to enacting restrictions on how it is marketed to children. But it’s also a comprehensive look at how Big Soda seeks to protect its market.
Some of the more disturbing sections of Soda Politics detail how Big Soda uses its power to fight efforts by federal and local authorities to reduce soda consumption or in any other way threaten their dominance. The industry has, for instance, long been a pioneer in the use of sham grassroots advocacy groups—sometimes called “astroturf” groups—to support their efforts. Such groups are designed to artificially shape public opinion by making it seem like ordinary consumers without an industry bias are in favor of low industry regulation. Nestle identifies seventeen astroturf groups funded by the American Beverage Association, a soda industry trade group, from Maryland to California to Vermont. These groups seek to turn public opinion against issues like soda taxes, container size restrictions, and limits on marketing soda to children.
Astroturfing is such a disreputable practice that no blogger I know would risk their credibility by engaging in it. Yet, corporations do this routinely. Maybe it’s time for a new bloggers’ ethics panel.
Make sure you read the whole review so you can see how these bastards operate.