Beverage Lobby Assails a New Enemy of America's Children: Water

Last Updated May 7, 2010 11:12 AM EDT

During an NPR interview this week, Maureen Storey of the American Beverage Association made the sort of absurd comment that almost makes you feel sorry for the beverage industry. When asked by NPR's Michele Norris whether it's "nutritionally sound" to guzzle a soda containing 34 grams of sugar after a run, Storey, the ABA's senior vice president for science policy, responded by defending soda as an important means of hydration:
Studies show that children who have been exercising may not drink enough water to get back to the hydration point that they need to be at. So with a little bit of flavoring and a little bit of sweetness, they will drink enough then to get back to where they need to be.
In other words, water is super boring and tasteless, so let's give kids soda because, as Storey also pointed out, soda is "90% water" after all. This is a bit like trying to deal with a child's calcium deficiency by prescribing daily intakes of ice cream. If childhood dehydration is a problem -- I'm not aware of anything indicating it is -- then nobody outside of the beverage industry is going to advocate for soda as a solution.

Storey's comments during the highly entertaining interview are a perfect example of the disaster that can ensue from trying to defend soda these days. So here's an idea: Stop defending soda. At a time when there are oodles of studies linking soda and other sugary drinks to obesity and when Americans are getting 50% of their sugar from drinks, there's very little anyone can say to redeem soda nutritionally.

Certainly Storey's other argument that soda "provides carbohydrates" is not going to do it. How many Americans suffer from carbohydrate shortage?

The only selling point for soda is that it tastes good and that people like to drink. That's it. The beverage industry would be better served to focus on promoting all the other healthier drinks it makes -- juices, sports drinks (which are not exactly healthy but have considerably less sugar than soda), flavored water and even plain old boring bottled water.

Coke (KO) and Pepsi (PEP) and other makers of soft drinks have recently taken steps that position them in a positive light with regards to the problem of childhood obesity -- they opted to display total calories on the front of soda bottles and they followed through on plans to dramatically cut back on soda sales in schools. But attacking water as inadequate, which Pepsi is also doing in a new ad campaign for Gatorade, isn't going to help them do anything except look desperate.

Image by Flckr user thelampnyc Related: Who Knew? Beverage Makers Really Did Cut Back On Soda in Schools