The federal government has financed a multi-million dollar ad campaign in New York City and elsewhere attacking sugary soft drinks. But legislation passed last week continues subsidizing sugar producers, and allows food stamp recipients to buy soda and other supposedly unhealthy foods with taxpayer money.
Uncle Sam is fighting soda consumption, in other words, even as it subsidizes its consumption and the production of the ingredient it says is causing obesity.
The U.S. Senate approved the 2012 “farm bill” last week with a few minor cuts to agriculture subsidies. But the sugar industry managed to preserve tariffs on the importation of sugar and domestic quotas that keep prices artificially high an effort to maintain American sugar farmers’ profit margins.
Nearly 80% of the Senate Farm Bill’s authorizations go towards funding the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, better known as food stamps. The Agriculture Department has opposed restrictions against the use of SNAP funds to purchase junk food and other less healthy food options.
The Food and Nutrition Act of 2008 allows SNAP funds to be spent on soft drinks, candy, snack food, and other less nutritious options. Heritage has recommended reforms to the SNAP program that would limit recipients’ ability to spend taxpayer money on allegedly unhealthy foods.
But while the federal government supports the production of sugar and the consumption of sugary foods, it has also spent tens of millions of dollars marked for economic recovery programs to attack the soda industry and discourage consumers from buying their products.
In New York City, which is looking to ban soft drinks larger than 16 oz., the federal government has financed 87% of a $2.8 million ad campaign linking soda to obesity, according to a Sunday report in the New York Times.
New York’s campaign came under fire after the city’s Health Department aired a TV spot, featuring a man with an amputated leg, claiming that soda can lead to the amputation of limbs. But the video was digitally altered – the man still has both legs.
The year before, internal emails were released showing the Health Department deliberately ignored scientific disputes over some of the claims in their ads.