Regulation of Sugar – Strategies That Work

As suggested by the experts in “The Skinny on Obesity: Drugs, Cigarettes, Alcohol..and Sugar?” public policy intervention is one possible tactic to put the brakes on America’s obesity epidemic. Whether you consider the regulation of sugar-enriched food products regrettable or a revelation, it helps to know what the research says. Lucky for us, UCSF Health Policy Professor Laura Schmidt offered up an overview.



So far, evidence shows that individually focused approaches, such as school-based interventions and warning labels on product packaging, demonstrate only salutary efficacy. Conversely, for both alcohol and tobacco, there is robust evidence that “supply side” control strategies —taxation, distribution controls, age limits –- lower both consumption of the product and accompanying health harms.


Successful interventions for alcohol, tobacco and sugar all share a common end-point: curbing availability. Taxation — in the form of special excise duties, value added taxes, and sales taxes — are the most popular and effective ways to reduce the overall volume of drinking, and in turn, substance abuse and related harms.

Taxes are easy to collect and cause little market distortion. We have robust evidence of their beneficial effects on both acute (e.g., injuries) and chronic (e.g., cirrhosis) alcohol-related health conditions. Moreover, alcohol taxes disproportionately impact youth – a group at particularly high risk for alcohol-related harms.

Soda taxation will likely prove an efficient, effective public health strategy. European experience with sugar taxation thus far strongly supports this conclusion.  However, one problem is that the current U.S. soda tax debate centers on adding one penny per ounce, which would raise the price of a can of soda by only 10-12 cents. Statistical modeling suggests the price should double to significantly impact soda consumption. Another question is whether juice consumption would be similarly taxed, as it contains an even higher average fructose load than does soft drinks (1.8 vs. 1.7 gm/ounce).

Controls at the Point of Sales
Other successful tobacco and alcohol control strategies target limits on product availability through distribution controls on opening hours or days for retail sales, the controlled placement and location of retail markets, and density of sales outlets, as well as limits on who can legally purchase the products. Reducing the density of retail alcohol outlets, through stricter state licensing and local zoning ordinances, especially in lower income communities, has been shown to reduce alcohol-related problems in controlled studies.

A reasonable parallel for sugar would tighten licensing requirements on vending machines and snack bars that sell sugary products in schools and workplaces. States could apply zoning ordinances to control the number of fast food outlets and convenience stores in low-income communities, and especially around schools, while providing incentives for the establishment of grocery stores and farmer’s markets. Another option would be to limit sales during the time intervals of school operation, or to raise the age limit for purchase of soft drinks.  Indeed, parents in South Philadelphia recently took this upon themselves by blocking children from entering convenience stores after school. Why couldn’t a public health directive do the same?

Controls on Advertising and Marketing
Advertising shapes children’s perceptions about alcohol and tobacco, encouraging pro-drinking attitudes and greater consumption. Voluntary agreements among manufacturers and distributors have rarely been enforced or monitored, and, naturally, sugar vendors favor voluntary policing.

In contrast, government-imposed regulations on the marketing and promotion of alcohol to youth have been quite effective. Thus far, the U.S. government has not imposed a ban or careful monitoring of the marketing of high-sugar content products to children. Some communities, such as Santa Clara and San Francisco, CA, have however instituted toy bans on Happy Meals.

Reduced fructose consumption could also be fostered through subsidization — by limiting access to soft drinks and promoting access and consumption of healthy alternatives in low-fructose, high-fiber foods. Promotion of such foods in U.S. low-income programs such as Women, Infants, and Children, and Food Stamps is an obvious place to start.  Unfortunately, the petition by New York City to stop subsidization of soft drinks within the Food Stamp program was denied by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture.

Recommended Actions for the FDA
Ultimately, food producers and distributors must reduce the amount of sugar added to foods. But sugar is cheap, sugar tastes good, and sugar sells, so companies have little incentive to change. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration already has the power to instigate change at every step in the production pipeline: from farmers, to food processors, to marketers, to suppliers, and ultimately, consumers. Although one institution alone can’t turn this juggernaut around, the FDA could “set the table” for change.

Since fructose acts as a chronic, dose-dependent liver toxin analogous to alcohol, the FDA should consider removing fructose from the Generally Regarded as Safe (GRAS) list, which currently allows food manufacturers to add unlimited amounts to any food.  Opponents will argue that other nutrients on the GRAS list, such as iron and vitamins A and D, can also be toxic when over-consumed. However, these substances have no abuse potential, as does sugar. Removal from the GRAS list would send a powerful signal to the European Food Safety Administration and the rest of the world, now facing the same crisis of obesity-related illness that America has been struggling with for the past 30 years.

Babor, T., Caetano, R., Casswell, S., Edwards, G. & Giesbreacht, N. Alcohol: no ordinary commodity: research and public policy. Oxford University Press (2003).

International Regulation of Alcohol: Room, R., Schmidt, L.A., Rehm, J. & Mäkela P. Br. Med. J. 337, a2364 (2008)

Soda Taxes, Soft Drink Consumption, and Children’s Body Mass Index: Sturm, R., Powell L.M., Chriqui, J.F. & Chaloupka, F.J. Health Aff.  29, 1052-1058 (2010).




11 thoughts on “Regulation of Sugar – Strategies That Work

  1. It will be a cold day in hell when anyone from California government in general, and the California school system in particular, is qualified to give public policy advice. There is no state in the union that is in worse shape, almost exclusively because of our political/academic class. California will continue circling the drain until our self-appointed nanny-state “betters” take off for Greece or Spain, where they belong.

  2. How sad to think that we would be placated with the rediculous notions of ‘taxation’ and other forms of condemnation of the user. We know the problem is rooted in the pushers of ‘Bad’ food, The Architects of our system… And furthermore, we know that this tide is much larger than our tiny voices. I’ve listened to much of your work and am disappointed in your ‘conclusion’ of regulation. When our system adds some minor concession to the point, like punishing the victim, are you really satisfied?

    Meanwhile, the system will use your recommendation of regulation as an excuse to outlaw healthy/expensive foods, because, the ‘real’ science supports LOW FAT diets….remember? We have let ‘them’ have enough control, don’t give them more.

  3. Regulation of sugar using taxation cant work.
    Just think about it. This whole taxation idea is based on premise higher_price -> lowering_consumption.
    I think, main target of taxation of sugar will be sodas (because empty calories are easy targets).
    Price of 1 liter of tap water in my area (somewhere in Slovak republic, EU) is less than 0.003 € = 0.004 $
    Price of 1 liter of Coca Cola (with some high-fructose corn syrup instead of some sugar as local modification) is 0.495 € = 0.612 $.
    Right, soda is 165 times more expensive than tap water and still, markets are full of sodas.

  4. Wow, nice ejaculation of unsubstantiated and prepackaged slogans. Doesn’t argument without evidence seem like sugar for the body politic? No?

  5. In addition to edcaitung Americans on how they should divide up their diet, it also helps them to establish some semblance of portion control. Seeing that a serving of beef shouldn’t take up the entire real estate of your dinner plate may just help some people modify their eating habits enough to make some real lifestyle changes. If we could eat meals in the manner that’s being suggested by the new plate, we can reverse this epidemic, Dr. David Kessler said regarding the rise in obesity rates.

  6. I once heard that eating a sfpnooul of honey before bed helps . something in the honey allegedly breaking alcohol or what? I’m not sure why this would be true, but I used to do this at school and it seemed to funktionieren.ALSO: greasy food before bedtime seems to do the trick now . keeps blood sugar levels stable and all that

  7. 143aSo, is a sugar glider a good pet for you? That is a quesiton you certainly need to ask yourself. This article is targeted at disuading you from owning a sugar glider by simply presenting the facts. Ask any suggie owner and they will tell you these things from experience and the huge number of pets given up to rescues and adoption is testament that this is true. DietSugar gliders require a Captive Diet that is not simply bought like a dog or cat. They cannot survive on dry and/or pellet type foods. Sugar gliders are an exotic wild animal and they require an exotic diet that can get complicated. If you are squeamish around mealworms, [[grubs]], [[crickets]] and other bugs, you should not own a sugar glider. HousingSugar gliders live in treetops and run and glide large distances every night to feed. Their cage requirements are far beyond what would be needed for a comparable sized domesticated pet such as a hamster, gerbil, ferret, or small birds. A typical healthy cage is no less than an AVIARY. Australia’s Department of Sustainability and Environment has various laws regarding keeping animals. The minimum cage size they require is much larger than what is easily found for sale in other countries, is not enough room and therefore not a healthy situation for the animals. The Exel Tower Cage is a popular and acceptable cage for American sugar gliders. SmellSugar gliders are very scent-driven and can be smelly animals. Much like a ferret or skunk, they have glands on their bodies to emit scent and to mark, although they don’t smell as strongly as skunks or ferrets. They also mark constantly with their urine as they are active inside and outside of the cage. After a few days, any cage situation will get messy and smelly and will need attention. VerbalizationsSugar gliders are noisy, and worse, they are noisy all night long. Being a NocturnalAnimal, they are awake when you are sleeping and they are sleeping when you are awake. Not only is it hard that you miss most of their awake time, but their barking and crabbing and hissing and various cage noises, including clanks, bangs and constant exercise wheel’s running, can keep you up at night and will ruin your day. Here’s a video on what to expect. MessySugar gliders are indeed very messy animals. When they wake, they will extricate their bowels as they move around. It is common for an animal to extricate while it is eating and when out for play and running on you. Poo and pee on your clothes, skin, hair, and furniture is to be expected with these animals. While in the cage, gliders spend a lot of time on the walls or high up and thusly they will pee, poo and even throw food and waste outside of the cage. ReproductionSugar gliders in captivity have the capability to breed constantly. It is common to have a litter of 1 to 3 joeys up to 3 even 4 times a year. This is a strain on the female and certainly becomes a problem for the keeper when there are too many animals to care for and when a male is in the cage with multiple females, breeding more. Overpopulation has become a very big issue with many unwanted sugar gliders living in bad conditions. BitingSugar gliders are an exotic wild animal and therefore have instincts to protect. If you look around the forums you will see that many people have problems with biters and many of them give up and hand the animals over to rescues thus adding to the number of homeless animals. Some people have needed to get stitches because of how deep a sugar glider can bite. In the wild they normally peel bark off of trees, human skin is much softer and easier for them to bite into. LongevityIn captivity, sugar gliders can live up to 15 years, plus or minus some. Considering the amount of effort one has to put into the pet for feeding, playtime, cage space in the house, pet sitting while away, a majority of sugar glider owners are not prepared for the long haul and inevitably give up their pets for adoption. CompanionshipSugar gliders are a social animal and were not meant to be alone. Human contact is absolutely not a replacement for family of their own kind. A minimum number of animals is two, do not ever plan to have just one. Solitary animals are the ones who largely have health issues, self mutilate or bite due to depression. There is no replacement for sleeping with and interfacing with their own kind. HealthSugar glider health problems can be bizarre as well as emotionally and financially draining. Search the SugarGliderForums and you will see numerous issues. Finding veterinarians in your area can be difficult, as most vets have little to no experience with sugar gliders. AbandonA large percentage of sugar glider owners give them up within a year. They finally realize and accept that keeping the animal is not as rewarding as they had hoped for. All exotic animals require above and beyond any care that might be given for a standard domestic animal and most f

  8. d81FIrst off, I just want to say, KNOW what you’re getting into. Sugar Gliders can be a pet that’s very rerwndiag, but often difficult to take care of, and I beleive it was 70% (maybe more) of new sugar glider owners get rid of theirs within the first year, or very shortly after.I started off with one (what I thought was a female) I found her on craigslist (which, don’t get me wrong, can be a great place to find pets, but people are often inexperienced, and it’s bets to only rely on CL if you are an expert and know what you’re doing, and what you’re looking for) The previous owners told me they had only had her for about 6 months, but it was too much of a dedication for them, and with small children in the house, they couldn’t handle it. I didn’t think much of it because this was a pet I REALLY wanted. I was 15 at the time, and didn’t know much at all about these animals, only things I had researched online. I noticed that she was developing a bald spot on the middle of her forhead, and doing further research, I found out that she was actually a HE and this was his scent gland developing. I then decided I wanted to get into breeding, and that my current suggie needed a friend. I drove almost out of state to get this female, who was supposedly a proven breeder. I took her home and they almost instantly bonded. Although, A fight coul’ve easily ensued, and one or both of them could’ve very easily died if they got into it. So it is a must to have a slow introduction process if your sugar gliders don’t previously live together.I then drove 8 hours with a friend to pick up some animals from a small breeder. A chinchilla for her, and another female for me. (hopefully this one would produce babies) I took her home and that completed my trio of gliders.I quickly realized that I had gotten in way over my head. They bark constantly at night, and their barks can be heard from any location in the house. There’s usually no stopping the barks. You must prepare fresh meals for them at each and every mealtime. This includes cutting fruits, veggies, etc. and sometimes making them special mixes. Doesn’t sound so bad at first, but after months of doing this once or twice daily, it gets tiring. And their smell, is horrid. If you have a large cage, that’s cleaned many times weekly, it’s not so bad, but when you walk into the room after a day or two of not cleaning the cage, it’s horrendous.If you think you’re getting a pet that’ll be more than willing to come out and play with you whenever you want, you’re wrong. They’re only going to be up from about 11 p.m. to about 3 or 4 in the morning. If you try to disturb them before THEY decide it’s time to get up, you will often get a loud crabbing noise in return (which can be quite terrifying to newcomers) or a quick bite on the hand/arm/etc. If you can get past all this, then a sugar glider may be the pet for you. They can be wonderful, loving pets, IF you take the time to bond with them. They sell special sugar glider bonding pouches that can be helful with some gliders, but with others, it’s completely useless. Good luck on your quest, and feel free to e-mail me with any questions.

  9. that it is normal for a male sugar gedilr to have a bald spot on his head because of the scent gland, but it is getting worse it doesn’t look like a spot. He is going bald in three different area’s now. The first one started on the left front top part of his head. It slowly started going bald moving from the front of his head from his eyes to the back like a stripe. As that was going bald a second one started on the right side just like the first one he still has some hair in the middle of his head though. It looks like I got a razor and shaved some of his hair off because he looks like he has a Mohawk. A little over a month ago he started going bald on his nose, but it is a little different. On his head he has lost all of his hair in those area’s I mentioned, but on his nose his hair looks half the length it is supposed to be. It started at the tip of his nose moving towards his eyes more on the left side of his nose, I just noticed today that he is losing his hair on his ears as well. I am not sure if it is mites or something I don’t see anything he does tend to act like something is making him scratch he scratches under his belly that I have notice the most. I went to an exotic vet who sees sugar gedilrs, but the vet was in surgery so I told the recep. what was going on, have not heard back from the vet yet, but problem with the vet is that I got my sugar gedilr when he was 10 months old and his previous owner never socialized with him so he doesn’t do well out side his cage he is very nerves so I don’t take him out of his cage I tried when I first got him I tried for months to get him used to being out of his cage, but he just never got better, but he seems perfectly happy in his cage because he has a lot of toys to play with. So I am not sure how I would get him to the Vet. So I am trying to rely on the internet. Other then him losing his hair and scratching; everything else is normal he has a very healthy diet, seems active, very alert, ears are always up, his cage is kept clean. I am just worried about this fast going hair loss. If anyone has any suggestions or knows of any good websites please let me know i could use all the help that I can get. I want to try to treat him before it gets to late.Thanks so much.

  10. 7c1Im just curious on the views of other peolpe about the pet trade on sugar gliders.I do own sugar gliders, but there not my pets I rescue them from peolpe who have no clue what there doing! I would love to see them in australia, gliding across the tree tops, and being free of cages but its too lait for these guys instead I try to simulate what habitat they would have in the wild, I have a very large rec room in my home that I converted to a suggie paradice, its wonderful, it has live trees, a real rock wall that expands across a whole wall, a costom waterfall, theres even a run that gose outside for the summer months. The room has VERY high seelings so theres loads of room to glide, i have noticed that they are MUCH happier now then they were in there cages.I do believe they should be in there natural habitat and I have simulated there climate as best as possible, im just wondering what other peolpes views are on them being pets?(PS: I know peolpe are going to say if there happy and healthy there fine but dont you think they should be where they belong? gliding across trees, being free, sure yours are happy but they have never had the chance to live the life of a wild glider so they dont know on what there missing out on.)im not asking HOW TO OWN A SUGAR GLIDER im asking your opinion on having them as pets!!!are you agenst them being pets or do you LIKE it?im also planning on moving to Australia once im old enough, I think its a beautiful place to live! maby if I move over there I will get a ermit and bring my suggs akong with me, if i did I would build a HUGE outdoor habitat so they could interact with other gliders!maby, if it were possible I could rehabilitate them into the wild, that woudl be the coolest thing ever.

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