Americans Against Food Taxes

Wordle: Americans Against Food Taxes

Taxes website looks completely wholesome – almost literally depicting
a Mom and Apple Pie approach to political argument.
The home page features a picture of a diverse group of
smiling Americans as well as a lunch box that contains grapes, a
banana, and yes, an apple.  The home page headings contain virtuous
messages: “Smart Choices for Kids,” “Education Not Taxation,” and
“Healthy Economy.”  Who could be against these?
But, in fact, Americans Against Food Taxes is a front group for
the American Beverage Association, and has a website that uses many
advertising ploys that can be incredibly persuasive.
First, the group’s name is misleading. It implies that it is
against food taxes of all sorts, exaggerating the scope of its
mission.  But in fact, the text only discusses taxes against
sugar-sweetened beverages. This tactic may draw in people who are
concerned about taxes overall. They will be less likely to think about
the much narrower issue of whether there may be health benefits to
taxing sugar-laden drinks.
The website’s home page declares that 95,993 people have
signed up to be part of the group, a classic example of social norms
marketing. This number may convince individuals that it is socially
acceptable – and desirable – to join this group.   In the About Us
page, casual readers may be left with the impression that this is a
wholesome group of folks.  The groups says it is composed of
“responsible individuals, financially strapped families, small and
large businesses in communities across the country.”
But the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity analyzed the
95,993 people who are members and discovered that 93% of them were
somehow associated with food and beverage industry groups – and 83%
had some affiliation with Coca Cola.
“Is it really Americans Against Food Taxes or just Food
Industry Against Food Taxes?” Rudd Center researchers have asked.
I was intrigued by the language used on the home page and
so put it in a word cloud to see what words were used most often.  It
can be seen here:
The wordle shows that words like Americans and taxes are
quite prominent, as well as different variations of the word
“healthy.” Balanced, obesity, exercise, smart, and children also
appear repeatedly. Yet the word “sugar” never appears and the word
“soda” appears less frequently. The overall impression with the words
used can distract readers from the real mission of the group, which is
to fight soda taxes.
Clicking through to the FACTS section of the website,
there are more pointed distortions of policy. It discusses that the
beverage industry was key in creating school beverage guidelines and
points out that nearly 80% of schools are now in compliance with them.
In fact, groups like the American Public Health
Association have criticized these guidelines, saying they’ve left
gaping loopholes that allow kids to buy sugar-sweetened sports drinks
and other unhealthy beverages.

Rochelle Sharpe