Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s got one thing right: Americans eat way too much sugar and that excess sugar consumption contributes directly to our obesity problem. But sugar-sweetened beverages and the way they are marketed are only part of a much bigger problem of too much sugar in the American diet.
While the mayor has the right social goal in mind, he and other policy leaders should consider a broader, yet individually less intrusive, approach than limiting the size of “big gulp” soda drinks. They should tell supermarkets and restaurants that they must, in the aggregate, slowly reduce the added sugar contained in the products that pass through their cash registers – say, by 5 percent a year for five years. This would bring about a sharp decline in sugar consumption.
Individual shoppers could still buy whatever they wanted. But retailers would have to engage in a wide variety of behind-the-scenes tactics – just as they do now – to influence the overall basket of goods their customers buy. They would have to figure out the best way to sell products with less added sugar, while still satisfying consumer taste and maximizing profits.