Friday, January 25, 2013

Big Soda Exploits Race in New York Just Like It Did in Richmond

By Wendi Jonassen
Fri, Jan 25, 2013 at 11:00 AM

New York. Richmond. Same players. Same strategy. Same manipulation. As we reported this week, the beverage industry exploited the issue of race during its campaign to defeat a soda tax measure last fall in Richmond. And now the New York Daily News is reporting that Coca-Cola and PepsiCo are exploiting race tensions in New York’s soda battle. The NAACP and the Hispanic Federation recently partnered with the beverage industry in a lawsuit to try to block implementation of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s ban on the sale of large soda drinks in New York City.

The NAACP and the Hispanic Federation say they’re trying to protect low-income residents and small business owners, while accepting funds from Coca-Cola and PepsiCo. The arrangement is similar to what we reported happened in Richmond last fall during the battle over the proposed soda tax. The beverage industry funded an influential Richmond group — the Black American Political Action Committee — which then helped defeat the soda tax measure.

In New York, Coca Cola’s law firm, King and Spalding, drafted most of the arguments that were presented in the state Supreme Court in Manhattan on Wednesday on behalf of the NAACP and the Hispanic Federation, according to the New York Daily News.

And the strategy appears to be spreading. Big business — soda in this case — pays money to groups that represent minorities, like the NAACP or BAPAC, which then argue publicly that efforts to limit soda consumption will hurt low-income residents and small businesses — even though soda is not a necessity and many experts agree that the overconsumption of sugar via soda is a leading factor in the country’s obesity epidemic.

The real irony in both New York and Richmond is that a limit on oversized sodas or a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages are both efforts designed to help the black and Latino populations, both of which have high rates of obesity and diabetes.

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