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Consumer group asks FDA to limit sweeteners in soft drinks

The Center for Science in the Public Interest urges the FDA to require beverage makers to reduce the amount of high-fructose corn syrup and other sweeteners.

February 13, 2013|By Ricardo Lopez, Los Angeles Times
  • The petition follows recent actions by health advocates to curb the consumption of sugary drinks because of concerns about obesity.
The petition follows recent actions by health advocates to curb the consumption… (Spencer Platt, Getty Images )

A consumer group is taking aim at high-fructose corn syrup in soft drinks, arguing that it and other sweeteners are responsible for high obesity rates and health problems because Americans drink too much soda.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest filed a petition Wednesday with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration urging the agency to require beverage makers to reduce the amount of high-fructose corn syrup and other sweeteners.

"In the past 10 years or so, researchers have done a variety of experiments and studies that connect soft drinks to obesity" and other health problems, said Michael F. Jacobson, executive director of the consumer group. "The science is now very strong."

Jacobson said current levels of high-fructose corn syrup are unsafe for daily consumption, which is why his group is calling for the FDA to study the matter.

A spokeswoman for the FDA said it had received the petition and would directly reply to the petitioner, but did not give a time frame.

The petition follows recent actions by health advocates to curb the consumption of sugary drinks.

New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, for instance, is moving forward with a measure that would ban the sale of large soft drinks in his city. Other municipalities across the country have voted on ballot measures that would impose taxes on the sale of sugary drinks.

In California, voters in El Monte last fall turned down a measure that would have taxed soft drinks — a measure that was vehemently opposed by beverage makers such as PepsiCo Inc. and Coca-Cola Co.

The two soft drink companies Wednesday referred inquiries to the American Beverage Assn., a trade group.

"Everyone has a role to play in reducing obesity levels — a fact completely ignored in this petition," the American Beverage Assn. said in a statement. "This is why the beverage industry has worked to increase options and information for consumers."

Jacobson said beverage makers are offering more healthful options to consumers, who have been drinking less soda in recent years.

"Things are moving in the right direction," he said. "Consumers are drinking less soft drinks, and I think a big reason is the obesity epidemic."

The filing isn't the first by the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

The group has filed similar petitions in the past urging the FDA to regulate the use of salt and hydrogenated vegetable oils.

The petition was signed by dozens of health advocacy groups, scientists and public health departments from cities including Los Angeles and Boston.

ricardo.lopez2@latimes.com

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