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American Beverage Association Refutes Yale Sugary Drinks Report

Posted by Mark J. Miller on November 1, 2011 01:02 PM

The American Beverage Association is keeping busy these days as cities and states threaten to put extra taxes on sugary drinks and other entities try to reduce consumption of the organization members’ products.

The latest battle for ABA is to dispute a study that was released Monday by Yale University's Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity that shows that “U.S. children and teenagers are seeing far more soda advertising than before, with blacks and Hispanics the major targets, as marketers have expanded online,” according to Reuters.

"This report is another attack by known critics in an ongoing attempt to single out one product as the cause of obesity when both common sense and widely accepted science have shown that the reality is far more complicated," said ABA CEO Susan Neely in a statement.

Neely’s main weapon in response to the Yale Rudd Center's Sugary Drink F.A.C.T.S. (short for Food Advertising to Children and Teens Score) report is opposing research by Georgetown Economic Services for the Grocery Manufacturers Association and the Association of National Advertisers that “showed that between 2004 and 2010, advertisements for soft drinks decreased by 96 percent, while those for fruit and vegetable juices increased by 199 percent,” Reuters reports.

Meanwhile, Yale’s report has it that “children's and teens' exposure to full-calorie soda ads on television doubled from 2008 to 2010, fueled by increases from Coca-Cola Co. and Dr Pepper Snapple Group Inc.,” according to Reuters. And those numbers are much higher for black and Hispanic kids (causing some consternation in the Latino community) and teens as well.

"Our children are being assaulted by these drinks that are high in sugar and low in nutrition," said Yale's Kelly Brownell. "The companies are marketing them in highly aggressive ways."

Brownell objects to the fact that consumers interact with brands for much longer periods online than they would when watching a 30-second television commercial, pointing to the fact that least 21 different sugary drink brands have YouTube channels, which had collected more than 229 million views by June 2011. On Facebook, the biggest brand page (Coca-Cola) has more than 30 million fans.

Yale's Rudd Center is also spreading its views on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter to try to educate teens, caregivers, teachers and others about what they see as insidious marketing by beverage manufacturers.

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