Companies count the cost of obesity
Published: Tuesday, October 23, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, October 23, 2012 11:10
Living in the dorms here in Brockport, I have learned the hard way that nothing good comes from eating out of the vending machines. Sure, they offer plenty of tasty snacks and drinks, but as I have been dutifully trained to know, “A moment on the lips is forever on the hips.” Well, lucky for poor college students, some of the companies filling the vending machines have started to take a second look at what we are spending our quarters on, and they are encouraging us to do the same.
Recently, the American Beverage Association has started a program called Calories Count in an effort to increase awareness of nutritional facts about the carbonated beverages being provided in vending machines. The program will begin early next year in Chicago and San Antonio. Beverage makers such as Pepsico and Coca-Cola will be revamping their vending machines in order to increase consumer awareness of the amount of calories in the drinks they are buying. More no-calorie and low-calorie drinks are going to be provided as well.
The Calories Count program officially kicked off when Chicago’s mayor, Rahm Emanuel, called the American Beverage Association looking for a grant to support a wellness challenge he wanted to take on with another city. Emanuel was inspired to create the challenge in an effort to lower Chicago’s health care costs by encouraging citizens to sign up for a health care plan that insists people set goals for their health.
The cities in the challenge are competing to see whose government workers can be healthier. Weight loss and lowering blood pressure will be taken into serious consideration, and the winning city will win $5 million from the beverage association foundation. The employee with the most improved health will also win $1,000.
Now, this sounds like some pretty healthy competition to me.
“We believe partnerships like this — those which involve government, industry and civil society — can have a meaningful impact on the obesity issue,” said Steven A. Cahillane, president and chief executive of Coca-Cola Refreshments, in a a statement.
If the program succeeds in Chicago and San Antonio, the American Beverage Association will look to spread the program nationwide.
In the United States, the obesity issue is certainly correlated to the beverage industry. For instance, one 12-ounce regular soda contains eight tablespoons of sugar. That means 130 calories and absolutely no nutritional value, according to the American Heart Association.
Beverage companies argue they are simply getting a bad rap, and that the obesity rate has risen even as soda sales decline. However, no matter how you look at it, you have to admit nothing good comes from drinking soda. There's empty calories, an increase in cavities and that weird bubbly feeling you get when you drink soda on an empty stomach.
Critics of soda companies, such as the ones involved in this project, are generally pleased with the prospective changes. One of the reasons the beverage industry became involved in this competition was to relieve the growing criticism that carbonated drinks are responsible for the obesity epidemic in the U.S.
“People tend to over-consume products with sugar, and for these companies to be doing something that may decrease consumption of their sugared beverages surprises me,” said Kelly D. Brownell, director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University, according to The New York Times. “But it does seem to me to be a positive move.”
As the U.S. has taken hit after hit in international news because of the spread of obesity, people have become increasingly more aware of what their diet consists of. The sales of carbonated beverages actually have gone down, and Coke and Pepsi have had to include bottled water, juices and sports drinks into their products in order to keep up with the evolving nation.
And why shouldn’t they grow with their consumers? Giving people the opportunity to see the number of calories on the drinks they buy out of vending machines is a great start in making consumers more aware of what they are putting into their bodies. Hopefully one day we’ll have the opportunity to see an entire nutritional fact sheet, since there are more health factors to consider than simply calories. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
After all, calories count. And it’s great that the beverage industry is beginning to count them as well.