Unlikely Duo Opposes San Francisco Soft Drink Tax Plan

Corn Refiners and CSPI Agree That High-Fructose Corn Syrup No Worse Than Sugar


WASHINGTON—The nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest has long supported small taxes on soft drinks to help pay for bike paths, nutrition education, and other obesity-prevention programs. But CSPI opposes a measure proposed by San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom because it would tax only drinks made with high-fructose corn syrup and not drinks made with other forms of sugar. Less surprisingly, the Corn Refiners Association also opposes the measure, but the two groups cosigned an unusual joint letter to Mayor Newsom urging him to reconsider his plan.

“We respectfully urge that the proposal be revised as soon as possible to reflect the scientific evidence that demonstrates no material differences in the health effects of high-fructose corn syrup and sugar,” wrote CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson and Corn Refiners Association president Audrae Erickson. “The real issue is that excessive consumption of any sugars may lead to health problems.”

The letter goes on to explain that high-fructose corn syrup and sucrose, or table sugar, are similar in composition and that several studies have shown that the two types of sugars are similarly metabolized by the body. On its website, CSPI says that the idea that high-fructose corn syrup is more harmful than sugar is an “urban myth” and that there would be no health benefit whatsoever if companies switched from high-fructose corn syrup to sugar.

“If Mayor Newsom wants to make his tax proposal fair, science-based, and pro-public health he would assess a penny or two tax per can on all non-diet soft drinks regardless of whether they’re sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup or regular sugar,” said Jacobson, separately.

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