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Feb 17 / Josh

Why I Love Seltzer


You may have realized that there has been a lot of talk of bubbly beverages lately (and no, I’m not referring to that awesome EM interview with Dogfish Head founder!)

My main man Michael Bloomberg and his much discussed soda size ban. Proposed—and rejected— soda tax ballot initiatives in Richmond and El Monte, California (and let’s throw in the defeated Prop 37 GMO-labeling California initiative as well). Coca Cola ads explaining why they’re part of the fight against obesity. In all this heresy of nanny states, health-speak, and PR mumbo jumbo, it’s hard to get the facts straight. So I thought I’d explain, using a select few tidbits of information I’ve come across since these ‘soda wars’ began, why I love seltzer. Pure, carbonated, calorie-free, all natural, seltzer.

I came across this article back in December in Mother Jones called Big Sugar’s Sweet Little Lies. Perhaps it spoke to the Mad Men fan in me— a bunch of ad men sitting around a table in the ‘60’s and ‘70’s, smoking cigarettes, drinking old fashions and figuring out how to convince Americans that they wanted to purchase a product that could easily kill them (a la cigarettes and Jaguars)? I’m surprised Don Draper hasn’t tried yet. But in all seriousness, the article unearths much of the buried little secrets of the largest sugar corporations and the industry trade group the Sugar Association. Internal documents and memos of these groups show evidence of decades of biased research funding for only those scientists willing to paint the story of sugar as one of health and safety; all the while intentionally obscuring hard facts and shrouding negative scientific evidence in ambiguity, leaving consumers with the sweet taste of confusion on their lips and bottles of Coke in their tummies.  By funding studies at academic cornerstones like the department of nutrition in the Harvard School of Public Health, Big Sugar used bogus academia to bolster their claims, and planted allies on FDA expert panels to push these papers as proof as to why sugar consumption should not be limited by the government agency. Using this revolving door method, sugar moguls remained in control over the science used to create public policy.

Big Soda (though filled with high fructose corn syrup in place of sugar) is picking up right where Big Sugar left off, and confusion is their best self-defense.  Why did the soda industry and industry groups such as the American Beverage Association spend over $2.5 and $1.3 million in Richmond and El Monte, respectively, to defeat soda tax initiatives in cities little known before the measures were proposed? Because they knew once word and proof got out that people thought soda dangerous enough to place restrictions on it, their blanket of confusion would begin to disappear, bit by bit.

But don’t let these defeats get you too down in the dumps; we’ve got people working for our side as well. Big time ad man Alex Bogusky, who once left his role as the creative genius behind Burger King chicken nugget campaigns to create the unforgettable anti-smoking Truth Campaign, is now setting his sites on the soda world. Bogusky and consumer advocacy and nutrition guru the Center for Science in the Public Interest teamed up to share “the unhappy truth about soda” in their witty viral Coca Cola satire video, The Real Bears. To make matters even better, Bogusky went on to create a new campaign for SodaStream, the at-home water carbonation machine, explaining why owning a SodaStream is not only a good personal health move, but can help the environment as well.

Don’t buy into obscurity. If a bottle of soda is wrapped in a label filled with fine print, don’t waste your time trying to make sense of what it all means; ignore the product all together. And that’s why I choose seltzer. Nothin’ but water and bubbles (and I even make mine myself!). So next time you see Beyonce’s face on a can of Pepsi, or another Coke bottle boasting how few calories it contains, just remember what is hiding underneath. It’s a little more than just water and bubbles.

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