Thu. Mar 23rd, 2023
Photographer: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg
Enlarge / Photographer: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg

As leading health experts gathered in Washington Monday to discuss the dramatic rise in obesity and type 2 diabetes over the past three decades, PepsiCo Inc. aims to slightly reduce added sugars in drinks – a major cause of the health crises.

Under its new “sustainability agenda,” PepsiCo gives itself until 2025 to reduce the production of beverages that contain more than 100 calories from added sugars in a 12-ounce serving. (Added sugars are sugars added during food production and processing that are not found naturally in foods, such as the natural sugars in milk and fruit.) Currently, about 60 percent of PepsiCo’s beverages contain more than 100 calories from added sugars. ; the company’s goal is to reduce that to 33 percent in the next nine years. The efforts, the company said, will help “meet changing consumer needs.”

High-calorie culprits include the company’s flagship drink, Pepsi, which has 150 calories and 41 grams of sugar (or about 10.25 teaspoons) in a 12-ounce can. PepsiCo’s Mountain Dew contains 170 calories and 46 grams of sugar in a 12-ounce serving. And Starbucks Frappuccino coffee drink, also made by the company, contains 290 calories and 46 grams of sugar in a 13.7 fluid ounce serving.

The latest federal dietary guidelines recommend that added sugars make up no more than 10 percent of calories per day (one gram of sugar is about four calories). For a 2,000-calorie-per-day diet, that’s a daily maximum of about 50 grams of added sugar (or 12.5 teaspoons) — just a little more than what’s in a single Mountain Dew. And for a 2,500-calorie-a-day diet, the recommended maximum is about 62.5 grams. The World Health Organization recommends limiting added sugars to just five percent of daily calories.

The federal government reports that most Americans are consuming far more than both recommended amounts. Beverages, such as sugary soft drinks, energy drinks and alcoholic beverages, are the largest single source of those sugars. Currently, about 70 percent of American adults are overweight, including 38 percent who are obese. More than 29 million Americans have diabetes, of which 86 million have pre-diabetes. To help consumers easily identify and reduce added sugars, the Food and Drug Administration announced changes to nutrition labels earlier this year. The new labels, which become mandatory on July 26, 2018, specifically separate added sugar content from natural sugars.

To reduce the added sugar in its drinks, PepsiCo said it plans to offer more low-calorie and low-calorie diet drinks, as well as reformulate current high-calorie snacks.

“These are good steps. But if we have an obesity crisis, I think we can do more,” Mindy Lubber, president of nonprofit organization Ceres, told Reuters.

Just last week, the World Health Organization urged world leaders to introduce taxes on soft drinks that could discourage consumers from buying the drinks. “If governments tax products like sugary drinks, they can reduce suffering and save lives. They can also reduce health care costs and increase revenues to invest in health services,” Douglas Bettcher, director of WHO’s Division of Prevention of Non-Communicable Diseases, said in a statement. To be effective, the taxes would have to raise the selling price of soft drinks by at least 20 percent, the WHO said.

PepsiCo and other beverage companies, namely Coca-Cola, have strongly opposed such taxes and amendments to nutrition labels. The industry has spent millions lobbying to defeat proposed legislation at the state and federal level in the US. A recent study also found that beverage companies, including PepsiCo, have spent millions on sponsorships of health organizations, which could potentially shut down health campaigns aimed at reducing or taxing soda consumption. In one example, the Save the Children charity abruptly stopped supporting the soda tax law after receiving more than $5 million in funding from PepsiCo and Coca-Cola.

As consumers and health experts wait nine years for more low-calorie, low-sugar options from PepsiCo, the company notes on its website that it already offers 350 such drinks. Those choices include bottled water and a 7.5-ounce can of Pepsi that has 100 calories.

By akfire1

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