On Atlantic.com Marion Nestle, professor of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University, claims soda companies are using corporate donations to influence a non-profit organization.

Nestle asserts Pepsi’s and Coca-Cola’s substantial donations to Save the Children, “a group devoted to child health and development projects internationally and domestically,” stopped the organization from advocating for soda taxes to fight obesity.

While it’s true Save the Children recently reversed its position on soda taxes the reason, however, can be justified by the lack of compelling data between taxation and a reduction in obesity.

There is scant evidence that taxing one source of calories will have a meaningful impact on obesity rates. For instance, raising taxes on soda will decrease consumption of these beverages but that does not mean this will lead to a decrease in obesity. Consumers might choose other beverages or other caloric foods to compensate for the decrease in soda consumption.

This dilemma is recognized by the public health community. Thomas Frieden, the head of the Centers for Disease Control, believes taxing soda will reduce consumption but the impact of this effort on overall calorie intake is unknown.

During a discussion on whether taxing soda would be an effective strategy to reduce obesity Frieden said:

“There are important unknowns. It’s not known whether if people reduce their consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages they would offset that by consumption of other high caloric items.”

Perhaps Nestle’s outburst against Save the Children and unfounded claims of corporate influence is driven by the loss of an ally in her anti-soda campaign.

Liberals detest defectors from their progressive causes.

Obesity is a serious and complex health issue confronting our country requiring thoughtful policies. Demonizing Coke and Pepsi and an organization dedicated to saving children will not solve the problem.

The New York Times story on this topic is available here.