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The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has launched a campaign to halve the amount of sodium in prepackaged foods and restaurant meals within 10 years. CSPI Executive Director Michael Jacobson this week presented the group’s case to the U.S. Senate Finance Committee, claiming that “Because it raises blood pressure and increases the risk of hypertension, heart attacks and kidney disease, salt is arguably the most harmful ingredient in our food supply.” According to Jacobson, “Gradually reducing sodium levels in packaged and restaurant foods by half would ultimately save an estimated 150,000 lives and billions of dollars annually.” Jacobson’s testimony underscored a concurrent CSPI exposé on restaurant meals that contain more than 4,000 mg of sodium per plate. The consumer advocacy group apparently examined meals at 17 restaurant chains, finding that “85 out of 102 meals had more than a day’s worth of sodium, and some had more…

“Because excess consumption of unhealthful foods underlies many leading causes of death, food taxes at the local, state and national levels are likely to remain part of political and public discourse,” claims this editorial co-authored by Yale University’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity Director Kelly Brownell and New York City Health Commissioner Thomas Freiden, who write in favor of a penny-per-ounce excise tax on sugar-sweetened beverages. Describing these products as “the single largest driver of the obesity epidemic,” the article compares a soft drink tax to similar taxes on tobacco “that have been highly effective in reducing consumption.” The authors specifically argue that an excise tax would help (i) reduce health care and other societal costs for obesity and diet-related diseases; (ii) correct an “informational asymmetry” between marketers and younger audiences, “who often cannot distinguish a television program from an advertisement”; and (iii) generate revenue, “which can further…

New York Governor David Paterson (D) has reportedly proposed an 18 percent tax on soft drinks and other non-diet sweetened beverages as part of his plan to lessen a $1.5 billion shortfall in the state’s annual budget. The tax would purportedly raise $404 million, but industry leaders have called the maneuver a “money grab” that would hurt union jobs at major bottlers located in the state. “We think that everybody has to keep in mind that we’re in a recession, and in an economy like this, the last thing we should be doing is raising taxes on everyday needs like clothing and groceries. That doesn’t wash with the consumer,” an American Beverage Association spokesperson was quoted as saying. See Times Union, December 14, 2008; Advertising Age, December 15, 2008. Meanwhile, a recent New York Times op-ed column hails the proposal as a “landmark effort that, if other states follow, could help…

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