The University of California Research Consortium on Beverages and Health, a group of faculty from every UC campus coordinated by the Nutrition Policy Institute, has released two new resources to support reducing consumption of sugary drinks. The first is a factsheet, University Beverage Pouring Rights Contracts – And Alternatives, which aims to educate university stakeholders about beverage “pouring rights” contracts that allow a beverage company—usually PepsiCo or Coca-Cola—nearly exclusive rights to market and sell its products throughout the university's campus and during events. The factsheet outlines the variety of stipulations present in these contracts and suggests alternative strategies for healthier, more up-to-date beverage procurement. The second resource is a living document, an Interactive Table of Policy Strategies to Reduce Consumption of Sugary Drinks (US – Proposed and Enacted). The table portrays the landscape of federal and tribal, state, city, workplace and educational institution policies in use in the US to reduce consumption of sugary drinks: excise taxes on sugary drink distributors, bans or restrictions on sugary drink sales or service, and other policies such as restrictions on marketing, requirements for labeling, or regulation of vending machine contents. It includes links to the policy language to provide sample language for entities that are considering developing new policy. Consortium members Ken Hecht from NPI, Kristine Madsen from UC Berkeley and Jennifer Falbe from UC Davis were interviewed about these topics in a July 10, 2023 story in The Daily Californian, “A unique responsibility': Campaigns work to limit soda consumption, stop UC pouring rights contracts.”
The U.S. Department of Agriculture proposed new nutritional standards to improve the healthfulness of child nutrition programs, which includes school meals. The new rule sets strict sodium targets and the first ever restriction on added sugars. Among many school cafeteria foods, chocolate milk, which has almost half of a child's daily recommended intake of added sugars in one carton, is potentially on the chopping block. The LAist edition of AirTalk, hosted by Austin Cross, invited Dr. Wendi Gosliner, senior researcher with the Nutrition Policy Institute, to discuss the significance of the USDA's latest proposal for school nutrition standards. The podcast conversation centers around a central question: “How do we make sure [school] meals appeal to students while meeting their nutritional needs?” Gosliner acknowledged that initial pushback of the proposal is expected, citing pushback on the implementation of the 2012 Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act as an example. But she reminded listeners that new nutrition standards require a learning curve—they teach students what to get used to. She described how thoughtful removal of cafeteria staples, like chocolate milk, may help students part ways with familiar school foods and can offer a long term investment in student health. She also highlighted California's Universal School Meals program as a model for the nation with its bold investments. “School meals have the potential to be both tasty and nutritious,” said Gosliner. The LAist “AirTalk” episode is titled “USDA Considers Banning One Of The Best Parts Of School Lunch: Chocolate Milk” and can be found on the KPCC LAist website; scroll past the episodes listed in order of airing to find the May 19, 2023 episode.
The Center for Science in Public Interest (CSPI) is hosting a virtual 2023 Sugar Reduction Summit to convene researchers, advocates, and stakeholders working in the field of sugar and sugary drink reduction on April 25-27, 2023, from 10:00 a.m.-2:15 p.m. PDT. The program includes four plenary sessions and twenty workshop sessions on sugary drink reduction science, communications, and policies, each led by experts in the field. One of the invited experts leading a workshop is Christina Hecht, senior policy advisor with the Nutrition Policy Institute. Hecht organized and will moderate the session: “Water: Making it Real” on Wednesday April 26, 2023 at 1:10 p.m. PDT. Hecht is an active voice in supporting equitable access to safe and clean drinking water. She is a co-founder of the UC Research Consortium on Beverages and Health, a group of faculty from every UC campus who work to reduce consumption of sugary drinks and replace them with water. She belongs to the National Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Reduction Workgroup, where she uses research to propose policy recommendations to reduce intake of sugary drinks. Hecht works with colleagues at NPI and nationally to advance research in drinking water access and to advocate for healthier beverage choices; she also coordinates the National Drinking Water Alliance. Hecht will speak about the essentials to enable consumption of water and panellists will describe current community efforts to enable drinking water in Navajo Nation, New Orleans, Nevada and Philadelphia. Registration for the 2023 Sugar Reduction Summit is free of charge. The agenda for the event can be found on the Center for Science in Public Interest website.
Drinking sugar-sweetened beverages (SSB), instead of plain water, is associated with poorer health outcomes and a higher risk of developing diet-related chronic diseases. However, public distrust of the local water supply may deter the intake of plain drinking water. A recent study investigated the perceptions of tap and bottled water safety, as well as plain water and SSB intake of participants following reports on drinking water quality violations in the US, specifically the Flint water crisis. Researchers used survey data on 4,041 American adults in 2018. They found that 1 in 7 adults did not think their tap water at home was safe to drink, 2 in 5 adults thought bottled water was safer than tap water, and 1 in 4 adults did not like the taste of their local tap water. Those with negative perceptions of tap water safety and taste reported low tap water intake and were more likely to consume bottled water. The study also identified an association between perceiving bottled water as safer than tap water and a higher SSB intake. This research provides guidance for effective interventions to promote water consumption and address perceptions of water safety. The study was published in the American Journal of Public Health Promotion by the following researchers: Sohyun Park, Stephen Onufrak, and Heidi Blanck of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Angie Cradock of Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Anisha Patel of Stanford University, and Christina Hecht of the Nutrition Policy Institute.
University of California's Research Consortium on Beverages and Health, with support from the American Heart Association, has released six short fact sheets to help educate both community members and decision-makers on the risks of over-consumption of sugary drinks. The fact sheets aim to provide the evidence base, expressed in simple talking points:
- What are Sugary Drinks? and 7 Reasons to Skip Sugary Drinks provide simple insights into sugary drink ingredients and how they can be harmful.
- The Health Harms of Sugary Drinks gives facts on the leading health risks of consuming these drinks.
- Sugary Drinks and COVID illustrates how sugary beverages, with their risk to cardio-metabolic health, can worsen the impact of diseases such as COVID-19.
- The Heavy Environmental Impact of Sugary Drinks provides data that illuminate the consequences of sugary drink consumption on the environment.
- How Four Cities in California are Using Sugary Drink Tax Revenue showcases how excise taxes levied on distributors of sugary drinks have funded projects to improve health in vulnerable populations in San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley and Albany, California.
The Consortium is comprised of faculty working across the field of sugar science from all ten UC campuses and UC Agriculture and Natural Resources. The Consortium is coordinated by the Nutrition Policy Institute under the leadership of Christina Hecht, Ken Hecht, and Pat Crawford. Please contact Ken Hecht for more information about the Consortium and Christina Hecht for additional resources for community education on healthy beverage choices.