June 15, 2009
WASHINGTONThe Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) is urging USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack to reverse rules that prohibit states from using federal nutrition education funds for discouraging soda consumption.
"Soft drinks are the only food or beverage directly linked to obesity," said CSPI Legal Affairs Director Bruce Silverglade. "Yet under the Bush Administration, USDA gagged state health officials and blocked important nutrition education efforts. We hope the Obama Administration will quickly reverse course and instead actively support state campaigns aimed at reducing soda consumption and obesity."
The policy has its roots in a 2003 USDA memorandum prohibiting the use of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program funds for disparaging or criticizing any food, issued after Maine ran an ad campaign encouraging people to cut back on soda. In March 2009, the USDA restated the gag rule in a guidance document for state health officials.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, published jointly by USDA and the Department of Health and Human Services, advises people to "choose and prepare foods and beverages with little added sugars or caloric sweeteners," and USDA's Food Guide recommends that people who consume a reasonable amount of fat and calories to consume no more than eight teaspoons of added sugars a day, which is less than the amount of sugar found in a typical 12-unce can of soda.
"This is just a matter of permitting states to run nutrition education programs that are consistent with the federal government's own dietary advice, so this should really be a no-brainer," stated Ilene Ringel Heller, CSPI senior attorney.
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