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Sugar Industry Pressuring UN to Lie About Obesity

April 25, 2003
Washington Post
JULIET EILPERIN

Sugar industry aims to block WHO report: Challenges advice to curb
intake. Only 10 per cent of daily calories recommended from sugar
additives

The sugar industry has launched a vigorous campaign to discredit a World
Health Organization report on healthy diets, questioning why the
Geneva-based group would urge people to derive no more than 10 per cent
of their daily caloric intake from sugar additives.

Hoping to block the report, made public Wednesday, the Sugar Association
threatened to lobby Congress to cut off the $406 million the United
States gives annually to the WHO. The funds account for nearly a quarter
of the organization's budget.

"We will exercise every avenue available to expose the dubious nature of
the Diet, Nutrition and the Prevention of Chronic Diseases report,"
Sugar Association president Andrew Briscoe said in an April 14 letter to
WHO's director-general, Gro Brundtland.

The WHO report suggests people can reduce their chances of obesity,
diabetes and some heart problems by curbing sugar consumption. It warns
that "unbalanced consumption of foods high in energy (sugar, starch,
and/or fat) and low in essential nutrients contributes to energy excess
.... and obesity."

Some political allies of the U.S. sugar lobby also have challenged the
WHO report. Two senators wrote a letter to Health and Human Services
Secretary Tommy Thompson, urging him to squelch the report. HHS
submitted comments last year on the draft report, saying in part that
"evidence that soft drinks are associated with obesity is not
compelling."

The sugar industry is a major player in U.S. lobbying and politics,
doling out more than $3 million in donations in last year's federal
elections, according to the Centre for Responsive Politics. It also
represents a major agricultural constituency, with sugar cane and corn
farmers in many states.

Congress has maintained a sugar-support program for years. It guarantees
domestic sugar producers a minimum price by restricting sugar imports
and buying and storing excess production. According to the General
Accounting Office, the program costs Americans $2 billion annually in
inflated sugar prices. Storing excess sugar will cost another $2 billion
over 10 years, the GAO report said.

Briscoe said his association was attacking the report on scientific
grounds. He noted the National Academy of Sciences issued a report last
fall saying added sugars could amount to as much as 25 per cent of a
person's daily diet without harming one's health.

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