National Editor Tom Karst
National Editor Tom Karst

The notion to tax sodas is picking up momentum, just as a pending New York City ban on restaurants from selling high sugar drinks in cups bigger than 16 ounces is attracting lawyers and legal challenges. This story notes a challenge to the law based on "racial fairness."  That measure is slated to take effect March 12.

New York City isn't alone in its effort to limit sugary drinks.

Hawaii Senate Bill 646, introduced Jan. 18, establishes a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages, syrup, and powder with the revenues generated to be deposited into the community health centers special fund and the trauma system special fund. The tax rate? A nifty one cent per teaspoon of sugar added!

In Oregon, House Bill 2331 aims to imposes an excise tax on sale of sugar-sweetened beverages and concentrates.

Perhaps a heavy handed tax on sodas will prompt supermarkets to promore more healthy foods. Huffiington Post Coverage of the issue "Do supermarkets promote what is good for you?" That story is based on research found in this abstract, "What foods are supermarkets promoting?

From that abstract on PubMed:

Overall, ⩾50% of the front page of supermarket sales circulars was devoted to protein foods and grains; fruits, vegetables, and dairy, combined, were allocated only about 25% of the front page.

The southern geographic region and the highest obesity-rate region both devoted significantly more advertising space to sweets, particularly sugar-sweetened beverages.

The lowest obesity-rate region and western geographic region allocated the most space to fruits. Vegetables were allocated the least space in the western geographic region.

Grains were the only food group represented in ads in proportions approximately equal to amounts depicted in the MyPlate icon. Protein foods exceeded and fruits, dairy, and vegetables fell below comparable MyPlate proportional areas. Findings suggest supermarket ads do not consistently emphasize foods that support healthy weight and MyPlate recommendations.

More research is needed to determine how supermarket newspaper circulars can be used to promote healthy dietary patterns.

So if supermarkets are promoting sugary drinks more than U.S. dietary guidance would recommend, perhaps a soda tax might help even the playing field. If less Coke is promoted, perhaps more cauliflower will be.

In other food industry news, check out this report by Michele Simon of Eatdrinkpolitics critical of food industry funding of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.  Also, here is the IOM report on the adequacy of food stamp benefits.