18 January 2004

America stirs up a sugar rebellion

'After we produced the 916 report, the lobbying was quite extraordinary, particularly when they threatened to withdraw US financial support to WHO,' recalled Puska.

'We had done everything possible to be transparent, to be fair and rigorous, and we held meetings around the world on it. Ours was a balanced road-map to help individual nations decide how they could combat this trend. Every third person in the world has cardiovascular disease - how can we stand by and not try to do something?'

The decision by the US government to fight the global strategy has come as a major shock to many experts in the field. Bruce Silverglade, of the US health campaign group Centre for Science in the Public Interest, said that the influence of 'Big Sugar' in the about-turn was obvious.

First global warming is not happening despite the international scientific consensus. Now global guzzling is not happening either. Sugar apparently does not cause any weight gain at all. Once upon a time, tobacco, we were told by the same people for much the same reasons, did not cause lung cancer. Before we get any cute lectures about dinosaurs or the nanny state, all we we are really talking about is fair notice to the public.

Australia has significantly reduced smoking by an effective public education campaign and bans on smoking in restaurants and offices. A similar public campaign gained us the lowest HIV infection rates in the world. A similar campaign could drastically reduce growing obesity rates.

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