Soda Politics: Taking on Big Soda (and Winning)

By Marion Nestle

(Oxford University Press)

Sodas are astonishing products. Little more than flavored sugar-water, these drinks cost practically nothing to produce or buy, yet have turned their makers into a multibillion-dollar industry with global recognition, distribution, and political power. Billed as “refreshing,” “tasty,” “crisp,” and “the real thing,” sodas also happen to be so well established as contributors to poor dental hygiene, higher calorie intake, obesity, and type-2 diabetes that the first line of defense against any of these conditions is to simply stop drinking them. Habitually drinking large volumes of soda not only harms individual health, but also burdens societies with runaway healthcare costs.

In Soda Politics, CHNY member Dr. Marion Nestle answers this question by detailing all of the ways that the soft drink industry works overtime to make drinking soda as common and accepted as drinking water, for adults and children. Nestle, a food and nutrition policy expert and public health advocate, shows how sodas are principally miracles of advertising; the industry spends billions of dollars each year to promote their sale to children, members of minority groups and low-income populations, in developing as well as industrialized nations. That includes lobbying to prevent any measures that would discourage soda sales, strategically donating money to health organizations and researchers who can make the science about sodas appear confusing, and engaging in Corporate Social Responsibility activities to create goodwill. Soda Politics follows the money trail, revealing how hard “Big Soda” works to sell as much product as possible to an increasingly obese world. The book also encourages readers to help find solutions and details how advocates are successfully countering the marketing of sugary drinks; indeed, soda consumption has been flat or falling for years. Health advocacy campaigns, Nestle writes, are now the single greatest threat to soda companies’ profits. Soda Politics won the 2016 James Beard Award in the Writing and Literature category.

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