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Sweetened beverages are dangerous, need FDA regulation, say public health officials

Posted Feb 14, 2013 1:08 PM CDT
By Stephanie Francis Ward

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The levels of caloric sweeteners in many beverages make the products unsafe, say health advocates, and they are asking the Food & Drug Administration for more regulation.

The petition is carried by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, the New York Times reports, and is supported by many public health departments. Michael F. Jacobson, the group’s executive director, at a press conference Wednesday noted that in the 1980s, the FDA pledged to reassess sweeteners’ safety if consumption increased, or research showed that ingredients like high-fructose corn syrup were a health hazard.

“This is on solid legal ground,” Dr. Jacobson said. “It’s just a question of whether the FDA will act or what it will take to get the FDA to act.”

According to the article, a 20-ounce bottle of soda sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup contains the equivalent of 16 teaspoons of sugar. The American Heart Association recommends that women consume no more than six teaspoons of sugar daily. For men, it’s no more than nine teaspoons.

“If one were trying to ensure high rates of obesity, diabetes or heart disease in a population, one would feed the population large doses of sugary drinks,” Walter Willett, professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health, said in a statement. “The evidence is so strong that it is essential that the FDA use its authority to make sugary drinks safer.”

In response, the American Beverage Association in a statement cited the 2007-2008 National Health and Nutrition Survey, which found that Americans drank 37 percent fewer calories from sugared drinks than they did in 2000.

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