Whose Side Is the CDC Really On: How The Agency Is Talking Out Of Both Sides Of Its Face On Soft Drinks

CDC, HIV, Indiana

The Sketchy CDC: How The Agency Is Playing Both Sides Of The Fence On Sugary Soft Drinks

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sure seems like it is in disarray these days.

There’s the Zika panic, of course, which has launched a series of herky-jerky mandates from the agency, including a door-to-door urine sampling unit that cruised the neighborhood where the Zika-infected mosquitoes were thought to be found, to the travel ban issued for pregnant women going to Miami, to the heavy spraying of naled and other dangerous chemicals in neighborhoods where Zika-carrying mosquitoes are suspected to reside.

Then there’s another crisis that may not be so highly placed in the news anymore, but which is a deadly and ubiquitous one nonetheless: the obesity epidemic. And the CDC’s response has been puzzling to say the least.

With obesity bringing an increased risk for a host of health problems, including heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and several kinds of cancer, it has been targeted in several nations. Indeed, the World Health Organization has said that the aggressive marketing of soft drinks to children has had a direct impact on childhood obesity rates.

And via a soda tax, in which the sugary, empty drinks suddenly become pricier and thus sees their popularity fall, obesity rates are also predicted to fall. A soda tax passed in Mexico recently, and sales of the drinks plummeted.

That’s why municipalities like Berkeley California are passing or trying to pass legislation that taxes soda–a position one would think the CDC would fully endorse.

Indeed recent CDC research said that more aggressive action like the Mexican soda tax might be needed in order to get Americans to cut back.

But behind closed doors, the CDC’s attitude toward soda is hardly a united front. One source of consternation according to CDC insiders who are in the process of filing complaints is the ties between Michael Pratt, a senior advisor for global health–the CDC’s disease prevention unit–and Coca Cola’s pet interest group/front group International Life Sciences Institute.

Founded by Coke in 1978, the “institute” advocates for the beverage and food industries. And copious evidence has been uncovered showing that Pratt has been beating the drum for acceptance of the ILSI’s studies for years now.

This is troubling, as the ISLI has adopted a stance that calls not for reduced soda drinking–which would cut into profits–but rather for more exercise.

Now, of course, more exercise is not a bad thing. But to suggest that goevenrment should advocate only for kids to get up off their asses more and ignore the sugar epidemic that has blanketed the nation is absurd–especially when we have seen that soda taxes work.
But the CDC’s Pratt has served on a number of organizations created by Coke, acting as a scientific advisor to ISLI North America, and advising on a Coca-Cola-sponsored international study of childhood obesity.

Its time we call these rats out. There is far too much of this kind of captive agency behind-the-scenes work going on that directly harms the American people for the benefit of wealthy corporations. Write to the CDC today and demand that Michael Pratt resign.

Maybe one rat corpse nailed to the wall will scare the rest of them straight.

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