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Soda Tax

The soda tax is dead. Long live Free Refills! [victory]

Coca-colaJust a few months ago it seemed like free refills were at risk.

The threat came in the form of a proposed soda tax. The tofu-and sushi types thought they had the votes in Congress to slap a cent-per-ounce tax on soft drinks and sugary beverages. And they thought the healthcare reform bill making its way through Congress was a great chance to get it done.

Never mind that soda accounts for just five percent of the calories the average American consumes, or that mixed greens are possibly a bigger health risk. The food police detest soda (they drink guava juice and herbal tea) and were eager to jump at any opportunity to tax it. So last year they mobilized, focusing their efforts first at the national level, and then at the state level.

If instituted, this tax would have not only increased the price of a 12-pack by a whopping 36 percent, but it also threatened the institution of free refills.

Fortunately, the scourge of the extremely regressive soda tax seems to have been defeated. The LA Times has a great write-up of how the American Beverage Association got the job done.

Forget the coke tax, how much money would a salad tax raise?

Money GrabSince backers of the soda tax can’t seem to convince anyone that a cent-per-ounce surcharge is going to solve America’s obesity problem, they’ve decided to switch to new talking points. Now the sushi-and-tofu types who are behind this scheme are painting a soda tax as the cure to just about every state, city and local government’s budget woes.

I guess they figure that promising huge windfalls to cash-strapped legislatures will be enough to get them to enact massively unpopular soda taxes.

But according to the FDA, soda is not even the most dangerous food we consume. That honor goes to leafy greens (salad), which have been responsible for at least one outbreak of serious food-borne illness every 16 days for over a decade.

So maybe we should be talking about how much revenue a salad tax would bring in.

According to the Department of Agriculture, every year the US produces about 34 pounds of leafy greens per-person, almost all of which is consumed domestically.  Multiply that by the population and slap on a 1 cent per-once tax and you find that a salad tax could bring in about $1.7 billion/year.

Maybe we could even spend some of that money washing the salmonella and E. coli off our food.

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Forget the soda tax, it’s time for a salad tax!

(Hat tip, Erin)

Forget the soda tax, it’s time for a salad tax!

A bowl of saladFor the last few weeks, the tofu-and-sushi-eating crowd has been pushing to slap new taxes on soda and juice drinks in an effort to regulate what we eat. They say that sugary drinks are a public health issue because drinking too many can make you fat.

It is certainly true that consuming excessive amounts of any food, including soda, can lead to weight issues. But while enjoying cold coke on a hot summer day will never kill you, eating a salad just might.

New research out from the Center for Science in the Public Interest suggests that leafy greens, such as lettuce, spinach and cabbage, pose the greatest threat to public health of any of the foods regulated by the FDA. Since the FDA oversees about 80 percent of our food supply, that is a pretty damning statement.

The study, which looked at outbreaks of food-borne illnesses, acknowledged that most food-related illness goes unreported. But even so, it found at least 363 outbreaks and 13,568 individual illnesses caused by contaminated salads between 1990 and 2006.

That is one salad-induced outbreak every 16 days.

In one particularly high-profile outbreak in 2006,  E. coli-tainted spinach killed at least five people and left more than 200 others seriously ill.

And salad is just the beginning. Here is the complete list of the top ten most risky foods :

1: Leafy greens (363 outbreaks, 13,568 reported cases of illness)

2: Eggs (352 outbreaks, 11,163 reported cases of illness)

3: Tuna ( 268 outbreaks, 2341 reported cases of illness)

4: Oysters (132 outbreaks, 3409 reported cases of illness)

5: Potatoes (108 outbreaks, 3659 reported cases of illness)

6: Cheese (83 outbreaks, 2761 reported cases of illness)

7: Ice cream (74 outbreaks, 2594 reported cases of illness)

8: Tomatoes (31 outbreaks, 3292 reported cases of illness)

9: Sprouts (31 outbreaks, 2022 reported cases of illness)

10: Berries (25 outbreaks, 3397 reported cases of illness)

Taken together, these supposedly “healthy foods” have led to at least 1,467 outbreaks of food borne illness since 1990, making nearly 50,000 people sick. And that’s just the reported cases.You know what product did not make the list? Soda.

So instead of taxing a perfectly safe food product that is enjoyed by millions, why don’t we consider slapping a tax on the foods that actually hurt people, like salads (E. coli), sushi (mercury), tomatoes (salmonella) and berries (Cyclospora). Maybe we could use the revenue raised to buy food poison victims a nice cold coke to make their hospital stay a little more pleasant.


European-style soda taxes make inroads

€7.50 for a coke?

Are 7 Euro cokes coming to America?

Maybe the reason they don’t have free refills in Europe is because of the punitive taxes many European governments levy on refreshing soft drinks. If that is the case, then we have reason to be worried.

A recent article on Slate.com argued that although proposals to tax coke seem to have stalled at the national level, they are catching on quickly in our nation’s state legislative chambers. The latest state to increase taxes on soda and candy is Illinois. Since the beginning of the month, consumers in the Prairie State have had to fork over an extra 5-6 percent in taxes on every delicious soda or candy bar they consume.

Fittingly, the state that brought us Rod Blagojevich did not impose these new lifestyle taxes through an open and public manner. Rather, the Illinois Department of Revenue simply issued new rules redefining soft drinks, certain juices and some candies as “General Merchandise,” boosting the tax rate on these items from one to 6.25 percent.

While the new tax rate is still well below the 14.9 percent tax surcharge that France slaps on sodas and candies or the 17.5 percent tax the UK levies on such goods, it is nevertheless a dramatic increase from the one percent tax consumers in the Land of Lincoln used to pay.

Is Illinois’ new soda tax high enough to make people thinner? New research from George Mason University suggests it isn’t. But since the new tax applies to fountain drinks as well as bottled beverages, it just might be high enough to end free refills as we know them.

Is a “Coke Tax” a threat to Free Refills?

Georgia will never go thirsty.A story in this today’s New York Times confirms what we have all feared for a while now: efforts to tax coke are moving forward in Congress.

Apparently the self-righteous tofu-types who are behind this proposal are pushing for a one cent per ounce tax on soft drinks and some juices.

John Sicher from Beverage Digest told the Times what the tax would mean for consumers:

…a two-liter bottle of soda sells for about $1.35. At 67.6 ounces, if the full tax was passed on to consumers, that would add 50 percent to the price. A 12-can case, which sells today for about $3.20, could rise by $1.44, a 45 percent increase.

A lifestyle tax that increases pop prices by 45-50 percent is bad enough, but what the Times article did not explore is what impact such a tax would have on Free Refills.

Would a coke tax be levied on drinks served at restaurants and bars? If so, the cost to restaurants of providing a free refill of a 20oz soda would jump from around 12 cents to over 30. If this tax becomes law it could end free refills as we know them.

Fortunately, the American Beverage Association has set up an astroturf organization called Americans Against Food Taxes to fight the proposal. You can read more about their efforts at www.nofoodtaxes.com. In the meantime, contact your representative and tell them it is time to stand up for Free Refills.

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MINUTEMEN UPDATE: Senate considering Coke Tax

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