Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Ban Calories, Not Ounces, to Regulate Beverages

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Ban Calories, Not Ounces, to Regulate Beverages

Article excerpt

Call me a traitor to my class, or an honest man. Unlike most people in the beverage industry, I'm in favor of taxes or even a ban on supersweet drinks. But the proposed regulation in New York isn't the answer.

I fully agree with Mayor Michael Bloomberg (also the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News) that most drinks are too sweet and that we should do something about this. Indeed, I have. Fourteen years ago, I started Honest Tea Inc. with one of my students.

The idea was to make tea that tastes like tea, not liquid candy. This year, the company will sell 100 million bottles of tea, ades and kids' pouches, all with fewer than 100 calories a package.

Here I was thinking I was part of the solution only to find that these drinks will be banned.

Banned! Why? Because the products come in 16.9-ounce (500- milliliter) bottles and thus exceed the free pass for drinks at 16 ounces.

Coca-Cola Co. bought Honest Tea more than a year ago, so I no longer have any financial interest or managerial role in the company. But I do have a keen interest in promoting logic along with delicious healthy beverages.

Here's what doesn't make sense to me: Why is it appropriate to sell a 16-ounce bottle of Snapple Sweet Tea with 240 calories or SoBe No Fear with 260 calories and 70 grams of sugar, but not a 16.9- ounce bottle of Honest Tea Honey Green Tea with 70 calories and 18 grams of sugar? The SoBe product has almost four times the sugar and calories, yet Honest Tea is the one being banned.

I'm a professor and that leads me to look for internal inconsistency in any rule. A 16-ounce version of Honest Tea with 70 calories would be fine. And water is fine in any quantity. Why can't a beverage just add 0.9 ounces of water and still be OK?

My fundamental problem with the ban, which the city's Board of Health is scheduled to take up this week, is that it focuses on the wrong metric.

Fluid ounces are good, not bad. People are told to drink eight 8- ounce glasses of water a day. Like many other people, I can't do it - - water is too boring. Add a little flavor, a little caffeine and the antioxidants present in green tea, and count me in. …

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