US blocks UN health panel from backing taxes on sugar drinks
JAMEY KEATEN AND MARIA CHENG
The Trump administration has torpedoed a plan to recommend higher taxes on sugary drinks, forcing a World Health Organization panel to back off the U.N. agency’s previous call for such taxes as a way to fight obesity, diabetes and other life-threatening conditions.
The move disappointed many public health experts but was enthusiastically welcomed by the International Food and Beverage Alliance — a group that represents companies including Coca-Cola, PepsiCo. and Unilever.
The revelations came Friday as a WHO panel on non-communicable diseases issued a report that aimed to cut down on diseases like diabetes, cancer and obesity, which kill about 40 million people each year. The fight against such diseases is a priority for WHO’s director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
Dr. Sania Nishtar, co-chair of panel, said most of its 26 members supported a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages but one commissioner — whom she did not identify — hampered drafting stronger language.
Eric Hargan, the U.S. deputy secretary for health and human services, reported that he was that member, arguing it was not clear that imposing taxes on sugary drinks like sodas and fruit juices would improve public health. WHO has argued exactly that over the last two years.