Dr Marion Nestle: Food safety, sustainability, nutrition not high on Trump's priority list

Four US cities vote for soda taxes: 'This is an astonishing repudiation of Big Soda'

By Adi Menayang and Elaine Watson

- Last updated on GMT

Photo: iStock
Photo: iStock
Voters in the Bay Area cities of Albany, Oakland, and San Francisco, as well as Boulder, CO, have voted to levy a tax on soda and sugary drinks, while four out of five states passed or likely passed measures to legalize recreational cannabis (California, Massachusetts, Maine, Nevada).

The soda tax measures passed in the Bay Area by a landslide during the presidential election: Albany, CA, saw 71% of its voters backing Measure 01, San Francisco’s Proposition V received 62% of the vote, and Oakland’s Measure HH passed with 61%, the Los Angeles Times reported​.

In Boulder, CO, 54.7% of voters supported Ballot Issue 2H, the Daily Camera reported​, leading with a margin of more than 4,000 votes.

The four join Berkeley, another Bay Area city, which was the first US city to pass such a levy​, as well as Philadelphia, where voters passed a similar measure​ in June. 

Soda Tax ballot results

San Francisco, Ca. —​ Local Measure V (1-cent per ounce) passed with 62% of the vote with all ballots counted.

Oakland, Ca.​ Measure HH (1-cent per ounce) passed with 61% of the vote with all ballots counted.

Albany, Ca.—​ Measure O1 (1-cent per ounce) passed with 71% of the vote with all ballots counted.

Boulder, Co.​  Ballot Issue 2H (2-cent per ounce) was passing with 54% of the vote with a large portion of the ballots counted.

The soda tax has been a hot topic in recent years, polarizing cities with two main schools of thought: Tax proponents argue that a levy can help reduce health problems such as obesity, while anti-tax advocates say such measures are regressive and hurt lower-income families.

Observing cities that have enacted these measures also offer two views: Cornell economist John Cawley said that Berkeley’s tax wasn't serving its purpose back in 2015​, but a report published August this year found that Berkeley’s soda tax dented consumption of the drinks in the city by 21%.

Comments from ABA and industry experts

A statement from the American Beverage Association (ABA) was posted on its website this morning. “We respect the decision of voters in these cities,”​ the statement says.

“Our energy remains squarely focused on reducing the sugar consumed from beverages – engaging with prominent public health and community organizations to change behavior. We’re driving this change across America, including communities with the highest rates of obesity. It’s the hard work necessary for true and lasting change.”

However, Jim Krieger, MD, MPH, executive director of Healthy Food America said in a statement issued late last night that the votes amounted to an "astonishing repudiation of Big Soda."

He added: "For too long, the big soda companies got away with putting profits over their customers’ health. That changed tonight. Despite the billions spent on marketing and more than $30 million in deceitful campaign ads, voters saw the truth and sent a clear message that their families’ health comes first – thanks to an incredible, neighbor-to-neighbor grassroots campaign and support from Michael Bloomberg and Laura and John Arnold that helped level the playing field.

"This vote is an historic turning point in the effort to bring sugar back to healthy levels. Interest in this issue was soaring even before this key victory – we’ve heard from 12 cities and six states seriously considering a tax on sugary drinks in 2017. Now we expect many more places to act to tax an unhealthy product to raise revenue to promote health and other community priorities, reduce diabetes rates and give an edge to the products that are better for their health.”

Four out of five states pass measures to legalize recreational cannabis

On recreational cannabis, California led the way with the measure to legalize recreational cannabis passing with ~56% approval (with 93% reporting). Massachusetts and Nevada also passed their respective recreational cannabis measures and as of now (12.25pm PST) polling looks favorable in Maine, currently with 50.4% approval, though only 89.1% of votes have been reported, and it is therefore still too close to call. However, the measure to legalize recreational cannabis in Arizona failed,

The food and beverage industry with Trump as president

For the food and beverage industry in general, meanwhile, there is a great deal of uncertainty as to what Trump’s presidency might mean.

According to Sarah Boumphrey, global lead, economies and consumers at Euromonitor International, however, we could be heading for an economic downturn:

Uncertainty related to implementation of Trump‘s proposals pushes the US economy into a downturn. Together with worsening trade relations and lower immigrant labour supply, this reduces US GDP by almost 4.7% relative to the baseline forecast in 2017-2021.

“The biggest threats to the economy stem from Trump’s protectionist stance on trade, anti-immigration policies and the weakening of government finances stemming from expected tax cuts.

“Of course at this point in time it’s unclear how many of his policies he would strive to implement and how many were election rhetoric, so this scenario is still subject to considerable uncertainty. Republicans will control both Houses, which would ordinarily make for more certainty, but it is unclear how many of his policies the party will support.”

Dr Marion Nestle: Food safety, sustainability, nutrition not high on Trump's priority list

Dr Marion Nestle, Paulette Goddard Professor of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University, meanwhile, said she had not read anything to indicate that food safety, sustainability or nutrition were high on Trump's policy agenda.

(Thus far Trump has not talked much about food policy or agriculture beyond describing the FDA as the ‘food police​’ in a fact sheet later removed from his website, calling for an immediate halt to new federal regulations, and talking of significantly curtailing the powers of the EPA.)

She added: "I never believe anything that anyone says while running for office but there is no reason to think that President Trump will be interested in a farm policy that benefits small producers or a food policy that  values food safety, environmental sustainability, or consumer education."

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