Soda calorie counts, up front

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In response to First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move initiative to combat childhood obesity, the American Beverage Association (AmeriBev) announced this week that it will voluntarily add calorie counts to the front of soda cans, bottles, vending machines and soda fountains to better enable consumers to make informed choices. AmeriBev, whose major members include Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and NestlĂ©, said that it will coordinate with the Food and Drug Administration to implement the changes beginning this year, and plans to have the initiative in place across the U.S. by 2012. The association’s announcement follows on the heels of Coca-Cola’s commitment, made back in September, to put calorie information on the front of beverage packaging by 2011.

This week’s news from AmeriBev, as with Coke’s earlier announcement, likely reflect the beverage giants’ desire to steer government officials away from potential soda tax legislation. As the Wall Street Journal reported, last fall the CEO of Coca-Cola dismissed soda taxes as “outrageous,” and AmeriBev issued a statement last September referring to research that undermined the merits of soda taxes, and arguing that the tariffs “simply won’t make people healthier…” Previous research has shown that, while including calorie information on menus does little to alter adults’ food choices, it does impact the decisions they make for their children’s meals.