Via Dave Guerin, I find that Auckland Uni is hosting a symposium: "Sugary Drink Free Pacific By 2030?" The press release notes Richard Johnson and Robert Lustig as keynotes. Lustig is famous for his "fructose is toxic" position; Johnson's pretty similar.
The first day's sessions will discuss just how evil sugar is. The second day's sessions will cover policies to reduce sugar, including a keynote from a guy who's eating a lot of sugar and making a movie about it, a talk by Tony Falkenstein advocating a soda tax, a talk on lessons for advocacy, and one called "An endgame to SSB [sugar-sweetened beverages] in NZ by 2025?"
Tony Falkenstein is likely the same Tony Falkenstein whose day job is putting water coolers and filters in NZ offices: they're called "Just Water". I doubt he has any particular expertise in soda taxes, other than that they hit competitor beverages. He's also the one helping organise some class action suit against Coke and the beverage companies. I'd thought that part of the deal with the Accident Compensation Commission was that New Zealand didn't really have class action liability suits; I expect that it's largely a publicity stunt for Falkenstein's water company. I think we had one of his water coolers before we moved offices; I think I can see a budget line item that the Department can pretty quickly do away with as part of our ongoing budget cuts.
Now down at the bottom of this fantabulous shindig's programme is a Health Research Council logo. It's also on the Symposium's flyer advertising their keynotes. The Health Research Council's website also hosts conference materials and advertises the conference, though the HRC says it isn't funding the event. But, registration is $100 and they're flying in two keynotes from the US; there's no way they're covering their costs based on registration fees. I wonder how they're making up the difference. I hope it's not with public funding, since the conference seems not an academic inquiry into sugar and health but rather an advocacy event. The kind of advocacy event National would have railed against under a Helen Clark government.
Add to the slippery slopes file. A couple years ago it was SmokeFreeNZ 2025. Now it's moving towards ending sugar-based soft drinks. I wonder how long until they want plain packaging for Coke.
Dr Eric Crampton is a senior lecturer in economics at the University of Canterbury. He blogs at Offsetting Behaviour.
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