Monday, 18 June 2018

Sunday Star-Times on sugar

Eventually, you hit a tipping point with underresourced newsrooms where you kinda wonder whether they should just shut the thing down rather than continue.

Here's John Anthony's piece in the Sunday Star-Times on sugar.
A recruitment drive by Coca-Cola to combat the threat of sugar taxes has been slammed as "appalling" by the New Zealand Dental Association.

A Coca-Cola South Pacific advertisement on LinkedIn for a public affairs and communications manager role promises "an opportunity to make a difference in the world" working for the global drinks giant.

The successful applicant, who will work from Auckland, will manage government relationships in the Pacific Islands to ensure sugar taxes don't negatively impact the business, the job ad says.

A Coca-Cola spokesman says it does not support sugary drink taxes as they are "ineffective as a means of combating obesity".

However, that's contrary to findings reached by an international cohort of experts who have published a new paper in peer-reviewed medical journal The Lancet, highlighting "compelling evidence" that sugar taxes help improve health outcomes.
Ok, so public health people are mad that Coca-Cola doesn't like sugar taxes. The rest of the article is Valiant Saintly Public Health People against Evil Companies.

I guess that's an easy story to file.

Here's what the Ministry of Health had to say about sugar taxes:
...our current position [is] that there is insufficient evidence that a sugar tax would be effective in reducing obesity.
And the report the Ministry of Health commissioned from NZIER found the same thing.

If we go to the Lancet piece Anthony cites, we find that it is a two-page "Comment" piece. The Lancet notes that most of its Comment pieces are commissioned. I don't know whether they then go through any peer review, but this was most likely just Lancet editor Richard Horton asking Casswell's group for an oped on how great it is to tax alcohol, tobacco and sugar.

Much of the rest of the article is Casswell and Beaglehole opining on sugar, and how it's terrible that a company might have a corporate affairs rep that might ever oppose them.

Shouldn't we have expected the story to mention, somewhere, that the Ministry of Health, and the report it commissioned, found against sugar taxes? And that the Lancet piece was in their opeds section?

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