If it’s Goya…it’s no longer good

“We’re all truly blessed at the same time to have a leader like President Trump, who is a builder. And so we have an incredible builder. And we pray. We pray for our leadership, our president, and we pray for our country, that we will continue to prosper and to grow.”

(NYT, 7/10/20)

Such were the words of Bob Unanue, the president of Goya Foods, as he stood beside President Trump, Thursday, July 9th, at the White House lawn. This statement has caused outrage among a segment of the Latin American community, the loyal customers behind the Unanue’s success. Unanue has refused to apologize, claiming freedom of speech, which he does have, even if we do not agree with his view of what constitutes a “blessing” …

Facebook / Alianza for Progress

Unanue is not alone. Latino Republicans, of course, backed him up, along with conservative media commentators, who as expected, spun the issue as one of a liberal “woke” mob. Some, further praisedd the company, an American company after all, for its donations and help to the community. The type of kindness and philanthropy that makes good PR and gets written off come tax season.

For many of us, the Goya Foods logo came to be equated with the home left behind. Prudencio Unanue, a Spanish immigrant to New York City via Puerto Rico, first established the company in 1928 to connect Spanish, and later Cuban and Puerto Rican migrants to their foods. As a resident of the same city where Goya Foods was born, I also came to rely on the company for adobo (the dried spice, processed seasoning), canned beans and gandules (pigeon peas), and medium grain rice. The line has expanded to frozen foods, including tamales, plantains, and even arroz con pollo, providing processed (and less healthy) versions of dishes that we often think as home cooked.

The controversy surrounding Goya Foods leaves much to be unpacked about the Latin American community in the United States. For some of us, Puerto Ricans, this is not the first time the company has disappointed us. In 2017, Goya Foods withdrew support for the Puerto Rican Day Parade over the event honoring the [then] recently released political prisoner Oscar López Rivera, prompting the honoree to step aside. The brand, of course, survived. Most likely, it will survive this controversy and boycott as well. Judging from the company’s Tweeter feed, it has even gained new customers, prompting some to speculate about future product lines.

In the end, yes, Bob Unanue has the freedom to say and praise the president as he wishes, and share his views on what blessings have come under this administration. But let’s not forget that we, as customers, also have the freedom to disagree and change our consumption patterns in the process.

As Lin-Manuel Miranda tweeted,

According to Carmen Aboy Valldejuli’s Cocina Criolla, the ingredients for adobo criollo are garlic, salt, pepper, oregano, oils and vinegar. This simple list makes me question, why have I been depending on the dehydrated, preserved powdered seasoning? Another one is the Sazón powder – mostly MSG to add largely tasteless artificial coloring. I have already stopped using canned tomato sauce in favor of tomato, but I am yet to switch canned beans for dry.

Others have taken an alternate, perhaps easier route, switching brands. But what guarantees other large food companies like Badia won’t also break our hearts? Perhaps we can explore and support smaller brands? A good place to start is Brands of Puerto Rico. The island-based company distributes a variety food items along with other goods. Some local restaurants also make and sell their seasonings. Checkout the Freakin Rican Shop, a New York-based restaurant selling sofrito, sazon and adobo. And the list goes on.

For many, transitioning from Goya brand food items is not as easy. Goya products are meant to provide shortcuts to wholesome meals in the modern era (not having to mix spices, or hydrating and stewing beans). The community anchors that Bodegas are, are full of Goya products and in the current economic downturn their businesses will be affected. This is an issues for a reason. Goya has a stronghold in the Hispanic foods market, and in many cases is solely the only game in town. Even when you try to switch to other brands, when you do some research you will come to know that Goya might own that other cheaper more “local” brand, like Casera and El Jibarito, in Puerto Rico. These among other things, makes this breakup with a reliable (for many beloved) brand a difficult process. But don’t despair. We can figure this out! Many on the Twitter-sphere have been sharing recipes and encouragement for making sofrito or adobo criollo. This might also be a good opportunity to reconnect with family and elders, or dust off your “Cocina Criolla” book, to understand how these essential pantry items existed before canned and dehydrated products took over our pantries.

I will begin to figure this out, as my Goya Foods stock in the pantry is almost gone…

Written in collaboration with Omar A. Dauhajre.

Health promotion, policy change, and the public good: Thoughts from soda taxes (new publication)

This post is to share my latest publication, Understanding policy change for obesity prevention: learning from sugar-sweetened beverages taxes in Mexico and Chile. The article is the first coming out from our comparative qualitative examination of the policy change process in Mexico and Chile.

Governments have used fiscal policies, such as taxes and subsidies, to change consumer purchasing behaviors. “Sin taxes”, as the tobacco or sugary beverage taxes are sometimes called, are imposed to increase the price and lower consumption of goods deemed bad for health. Governments imposing these taxes may benefit from the positive image of being perceived as caring for the health of the public, while also adding a new revenue stream to their budgets. Yet, while a relatively simple and low-cost policy to implement, taxes on sugary beverages face multiple oppositions, particularly from the beverage industry. Common arguments against the tax include: The tax disproportionately affects the poor. The tax will result in unemployment and economic loss. The tax is not effective against obesity. And the list goes on. These arguments are part of the industry playbook, as presented by Dr. Marion Nestle’s excellent book, Soda Politics: Taking on Big Soda (and Winning) and confirmed by our industry respondents. The food and beverage industry has a playbook translated and adapted across borders, ensuring a sit at the policymaking table, despite the conflict of interests between increasing revenue and public health. These arguments become part of the public discourse, where regulation, even if for the public good, is met by backlash.

By Adam Zyglis / copyright 2010 Cagle Cartoons (From The Week)

The debate over soda taxes and obesity prevention policies resonate with the current politicization of public health prevention messages in response to the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States. The virus has shed a spotlight on how chronic health conditions can be deadly in the short run, and the importance of prevention. Yet, it also shows the difficulty of getting the public to carry out relatively simple behaviors, such as social distancing and wearing face coverings. This demonstrates the tension between the deeply rooted individualism in the United States and the common good. Sadly, this tension is being exacerbated by the deep political divide resulting in the disregard of science and common sense among those currently in leadership roles.

From The Week, 7 brutally funny cartoons about anti-lockdown protests.

See Related: Soda and Happiness

The Privilege of Delivery

I resisted in the beginning. Then, a few years ago, I found myself trying to maneuver the small wheels of a fragile grocery cart in the middle of winter and dirty snow, after making the epic, round-the-store line at Trader Joe’s. That was it. Soon after, I tried my first grocery delivery service and I have since not looked back. Grocery deliveries have made my life easier. I can shop from my kitchen, from the train, or from airports, scheduling delivery to refill my pantry and fridge as quickly as the next day.

Cartoon of home grocery delivery services all coming up to a woman's door.
From Bold Business, “Evolution of Home Grocery Delivery Services” (2018)

How I miss those days.

I write this post during my fifth COVID-19 stay-at-home week. In these weeks, I have developed a new pastime: I browse my food delivery apps (yes, more than one), and add foods to the cart. Then comes the exciting part: the check out. Expectancy grows: will there be a delivery slot?

Like many New Yorkers, I’ve been playing the grocery delivery lottery. I have multiple carts full and ready to go, in hopes that a slot will open up and at least half of the cart will arrive to my kitchen.

My last delivery of fresh food was at the beginning of April. I found toilet paper! I was also able to stock up on chicken thighs and kettle chips – recently realized favorites that were hard to find weeks before. This week I got a second delivery – pantry items delivered via mail (Thank you, Target and FedEx!). I was able to stock up on medium grain rice, canned red beans and garbanzos, cleaning products and sweet treats, among other “necessities”… It is crazy the things we feel we need while the world is in crisis.

As I play the grocery delivery lottery in my Brooklyn apartment, ambulance sirens sound off from below. The streets are nearly empty. The buses are still working. Restaurant delivery guys still venture out in motorized bicycles. Mail still arrives to my box, for whenever I desire to venture down to check. So many essential workers carry on, to work, to allow those of us privileged to be able to stay home carry on with our lives, as best as possible.

Late Sunday morning, Downtown Brooklyn, April 12, 2020

This crisis has shed an extra, needed light on the income inequities and racial injustices that characterize U.S. society. Those that keep us nourished and safe in our homes are also the same at the lower end of the pay scale. They are also members of racial minority communities that are disproportionately dying from the coronavirus. As widely documented, Black and Brown communities present higher prevalence of chronic conditions that place them at higher risk of death in the face of the virus. They are more prone to lack health insurance, quality health care, access to healthy foods and safe environments, living wages, sick leave, and the list can go on and on.

In the end, I will occasionally win the grocery delivery lottery. If milk or eggs run out before such a memorable event, I am lucky to have a 24-hour market few steps from my front door and a husband willing to brave exposure to the COVID droplets on a chance to also get fresh air. Yes, this has not been easy. But I am in no position to complain.

Engaging Ethnic Restaurants for Community Health: A New Publication

This post is to share my latest article, Engaging Ethnic Restaurants to Improve Community Nutrition Environments: A Qualitative Study with Hispanic Caribbean Restaurants in New York City, published at the Ecology of Food and Nutrition journal. This community-based research was possible thanks to the funding provided through my institution, the City University of New York, as part of a diversity mentoring grant. I was able to provide a paid fieldwork experience for three CUNY students to help me recruit and interview 19 restaurant owners, cooks, and chefs, serving Puerto Rican, Dominican and Cuban cuisines. This was my first try at working with the sector, which is now the focus of my NIH/NHLBI award.

The article aimed to give voice to members of the immigrant-run restaurant sector. This is important. Health practitioners and policymakers are increasingly addressing foods away from home as a target for nutrition interventions and policies to promote healthy eating. Some interventions have sought to expand the healthier offerings in these establishments, for example, through new salads, or seeking to tweak recipes to decrease certain nutrients, such as fats and sodium. These are difficult asks and challenging interventions to sustain. While we do need to improve community food environments, we must not forget to also account for the economic well-being of these small establishments, and the multiple roles they serve in these communities. As one of our interviewees noted:

We are part of the community. We are a family restaurant. We love our clients because our clients are our family because they live and we work here, and you know, we want to have everybody happy and healthy.

This article is the first of many to come! The forthcoming examinations of these ethnic eateries will contribute to a greater understanding about how to engage community-based food businesses to improve community health outcomes.

Thank you for reading!

Looking Back on the Decade That Was

Today is the first day of 2020. As years before, this time of year comes with a look back on the year that was. But this year, some retrospectives have gone beyond the usual 365 days to ten years. One of my favorites is from the food policy focused Civil Eats. The media outlet started in 2009, when there were close to no outlets dedicated to food policy discussion. Here is a snippet of this retrospectives, with links for those interested in reading more:

We have learned over the last decade just how powerfully food can draw readers into complex stories on the environmentsocial justiceanimal welfare, and public policy related to healthnutrition, and farming. We have shown that food reporting can be used as a lens through which to view everything from poverty to climate change. And we have been at the frontlines of some of the most pivotal food and agriculture stories of our time.

I have also been inspired by the scholars on my academic Twitter feed, bravely sharing the unexpected paths life has taken them through, including the difficult times that led to their success today. This post was inspired by those tweets. They got me to wonder: where was I ten years ago? Thankfully, my CV and social media accounts had the answer. Ten years ago today, I was enjoying my January break in Puerto Rico – the same place where I write this retrospective today. Here I am, as a first year doctoral student, blissful and most likely without a clue of what my dissertation project would be…

(Cabo Rojo, January 2010)

I was a teaching assistant for the Friedman School graduate data analysis course, taught by one of my mentors, Prof. Robert Houser, who then became a member of my thesis committee. I also worked as an evaluation consultant for the Boston Public Health Commission, my former employer. I lived in Boston, with my husband and lovely cat, Lolita. We owned a very cool two-story apartment in the best neighborhood in the city: Jamaica Plain. My favorite part of the place: the kitchen, on the first floor of the apartment. It was cold, having many windows and an inefficient heating system. But it was also open and large enough to fit an expandable dining table where we could fit 15 friends for dinner…And we did, so many times!

I spent countless hours in that kitchen. Siting on the stools in that counter, I wrote my dissertation, my early journal articles, and, a few years later, many tedious and long academic job applications. So many! The time came where I shifted my search from faculty and post-doc applications to research positions outside the academia. And then, in that apartment, I got my call from New York University. I still recall it came in the early afternoon, a few hours after an awkward telephone interview for a primarily teaching position that left me hopeless and a bit depressed. I am still amazed that I ended up in New York City, and I will be forever grateful to the New York University Provost Post-Doctoral fellowship for that opportunity. So, in 2013, we left that very cool apartment, sold our expandable IKEA dining table, car and scooter, and moved with our cat, Lolita, to the Big Apple.


Lolita, enjoying her new view, the very first day in our NYU apartment.

We lived in that apartment for two years – the duration of the fellowship. My old desk (pictured above) turned into our new dining table, now fitting only four people. Sitting in that table, I went back to the job market. I felt a similar sense of uncertainty I had experienced as a newly minted PhD, followed by relief, when I received the job offer that allowed me to stay in the city and carry on my ongoing work.  Today, as I write this, I am halfway through my fifth year on the tenure-track at CUNY, as an NIH-funded researcher, beginning my career development award training and research, with a completed book manuscript (in review).

It has been quite a decade. After looking back, I find it impossible to even guess what this next years will bring. But I look forward to being surprised.

My very best wishes to all in this new year and decade! Happy 2020!

Restaurant research update: An initial look at menus

Last month, my team completed the assessment of close to 90 Hispanic Caribbean restaurants, as an initial step for my new restaurant study. We worked together last spring to adapt the Nutrition Environments Measurement Survey for Restaurants (NEMS-R) to the Cuban, Dominican and Puerto Rican cuisines, including additional factors in relation to the promotion of cardiovascular health, based on the American Heart Association Life’s Simple Seven framework.

The NEMS-R is an amazing tool, allowing for a relatively quick assessment of the healthfulness of restaurant environments. While the assessment requires a site visit, most of the work is done using the takeout menus. This has resulted in a wonderful collection of menus, potentially worthy of an archive. I thought to share some here, as a short visual tour of these establishments…

Most of the menus portrayed the delicious fried food that often characterizes these cuisines:

Yet, not all followed this pattern. Some choose to display healthier fare:

And others, interestingly, attempt to cater at two different audiences: those seeking fried treats along with those seeking to eat healthier.

Yes. The last two menus beg further investigation. For instance, what sort of personalized diet for obesity or diabetes a restaurant specializing on empanadas could offer? Do the shakes sold under the “health” section truly promote relief from gout or bronchitis? What is a “lady tonic”? In any case, I see these as signs of the recognition, by some restaurants, of the potential customer demand for healthy offerings…

Menus are indeed a worthy object of study. They can guide our food choices and decisions on what to eat and where. Also, they can just be interesting to look at! Think about this the next time you visit a restaurant or even peruse an online menu for your next delivery. I would love to learn about your experiences!

In the meantime: Follow this blog, as I continue to share some glimpses of our work in this new project!

¡Buen provecho!

“Tradition” and Cuisines: Thoughts from Two Recent Publications

The word tradition often evokes thoughts about culture and heritage, involving practices that have been taking place for a long time. When attached to food, the word adds further meaning to an otherwise commonplace meal. Traditional meals are often associated with being “authentic” and “natural”, in opposition to “modern” foods, which many see as “industrial”, “ultra-processed”, and, by association, “unhealthy”. Hence,  traditional foods are often taken to be inherently healthy.

My research for the past years have been motivated by the meanings attached to “tradition”, and the assumptions health professionals make in regards to “traditional diets”. This post is dedicated to the public’s perspectives, showcasing some of my recently published work.

The article, “It’s sort of, like, in my family’s blood”: Exploring Latino pre-adolescent children and their parents’ perceived cultural influences on food practices, was the result of a collaboration with CUNY-Hunter College Prof. May May Leung. Working with her amazing research group, I conducted Spanish interviews with mostly mothers and their pre-teen children, as part of the development of a mobile intervention. I became interested in how these families spoke about their traditional foods. These foods, be it tacos, rice and beans, or tortas, were described as being their favorite, but, at the same time, they were often described as being unhealthy, or “not good for you”.

I noticed these perceptions as I interviewed Hispanic Caribbeans in New York City. I first explored this focusing on the importance of fried foods, given the salience of these foods in descriptions of these traditional cuisines. I then expanded the analysis, in the recently published paper, “Traditional Diets in Everyday Life: Perspectives from Hispanic Caribbean communities in New York City“. The article compared how Cubans, Dominicans and Cubans described their traditional cuisines and its importance in their daily lives. As in the case of the families interviewed for “It’s sort of, like, in my family’s blood”, the Hispanic Caribbean interviewees in my study also identified the unhealthy aspects of their diets, including the dominance of carbohydrates and fried foods.

Both articles showcase a tension between taste, tradition, and health in how immigrant and ethnic communities interact with their traditional diets in the United States. This tension shows a contrary view to the common assumptions concerning traditional diets and health. As I further aim to show in Traditional Diets in Everyday Life, the notions concerning traditional diets are much beyond culture, as perceptions that are influenced by the migratory process, including how these communities are received in the United States.

As part of my book project, I am continuing to study these notions, within the complexities involved in the immigrant experience, seeking to shift how we talk about traditional foods in ethnic communities. I welcome your insights as I wrap up the manuscript revisions before the end of the year.

Stay tuned for more updates about this, and my new restaurant project!

Restaurants: A new research direction

If you have been following this blog, you already have had a taste of my research. The posts I’ve published here come from my research with Hispanic Caribbean communities in New York City and the Caribbean, investigating how sociopolitical and global forces have shaped the experience of caribeños and diet-related health outcomes (i.e. Type 2 Diabetes, cardiovascular disease) – the subject of my book project (still in the works!). I developed this research as part of my post-doctoral Faculty Fellowship in Food Studies at New York University, starting in 2013. The 2-year fellowship allowed me to expand my training in food policy and applied nutrition, to think more about how social, cultural, and political factors shape nutrition and public health. The lessons learned during my time in food studies have enriched my public health nutrition research, now, as a junior faculty at CUNY. Now, six years have passed and I find myself changing directions, trying to fully move from the individual behavior change focus prevalent in nutrition, to think more about the influence of the environment – where we live, work, shop and eat – on food practices and wellbeing.

I am not alone in my interest in food environments. Many public health and nutrition researchers have realized the need to change the prevailing individual behavior change emphasis, to seeing how we can change food environments to make the “healthy” or “better for you” choice, the easy choice. Yet, as was wisely pointed out to me during a talk a few years ago, the better question is: how can we make the healthy food choices the desirable choices?

Community restaurants are an untapped site to promote healthful food practices. As noted by food scholars,

“Restaurants have become important symbols of postmodern life itself, with chefs transformed into media stars and restaurants increasingly carrying out symbolic work previously reserved for monuments and parades, representing the ethos of cities, regions, ethnic groups and nations.” (1) [Restaurants are sites of practices of social distinction] “where chefs struggle for recognition as stars, and where artists and patrons insist on being seen to eat and to eat particular things.” (3)

Berris, D. and D. Sutton (2007) Restaurants, Ideal Postmodern Institutions. The Restaurants Book: Ethnographies of where we eat. D. Berris and D. Sutton. New York, Berg: 1-16.

Just as fast food establishments have played an important role in promoting hamburgers and pizzas worldwide, other establishments, such as farm-to-table restaurants, have helped disseminate values around eating fresh produce and “vegetable-forward” dishes. Yet, the latter, unlike fast foods, are mostly enjoyed by higher social classes, with the wallets thick enough to pay $15 for a vegetable side dish.

What if affordable, community restaurants could serve or promote healthier dishes? What if better-for-you foods became the desirable (and profitable) choice among communities that show high burdens of diet-related conditions, as the Dominican and Puerto Rican communities in New York?

I am excited to share that I was awarded a training award (K01) from the National Institutes of Health to explore this issue. This five year award, funded through the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), will support training in novel research and intervention-design approaches, such as implementation science, systems science and design thinking, which I will apply to develop and test an intervention to improve nutrition environments in New York City’s Hispanic Caribbean restaurants. I aim to engage restaurant stakeholders – owners, staff, and clients – to identify and solve barriers preventing healthier eating behaviors in restaurants, without negative impacts on the business bottom line. This grant was the result of close to two years of work, which started three years ago this summer. I was awarded the opportunity to participate in the Research in Implementation Science for Equity (RISE) program at the University of California – San Francisco (UCSF), a program funded through NHLBI. The idea for the project started as an exercise during the first days of the training. That idea gradually flourished into a funded grant thanks to the support of excellent and committed mentors from UCSF, NYU and CUNY, and, of course, my fellow RISE Scholars (the “Independent Variables”).  

There is much more to say about this project. See more information here, and more to come in upcoming blogs! Please consider subscribing. And, if you or someone you know owns, works or eats at a Cuban, Puerto Rican and/or Dominican restaurants in the city, I would love to hear from you! Use this link to contact me!

The power of the caserola

When I hear the word caserola (casserole), I picture a big pot, sitting on a low fire, serving as a vessel for the slow transformation of raw ingredients, into a delicious meal. This week, my mental image of the caserola changed, from a cooking vessel to a artifact for resistance.

As I write this, Puerto Rico is undergoing its 9th day of consecutive protests, followed by a national strike Monday, July 22, 2019 – the 10th day of the struggle. The protests are in response to the corruption and lack of respect uncovered by close to 900 pages of chats between the governor, Ricky Rosello, and several members of his inner circle. The chats were the cherry that topped an ice cream years in the making, including a combination of economic recession, austerity measures, and, the biggest scoop: the slow and deadly response to Hurricanes Irma and Maria (read more here). Observing these historical moments from a distance, I am experiencing a mix of pride and longing, wishing to be part of the amazing demonstrations being broadcasted through social media.

The protests have taken a variety of forms, from chanting of “Ricky, renuncia!” vocalized in the tradition of plena, to protesters riding in dozens of motorcycles and even horses, and the national banging of caserolas.

Image from Confirmado

Caserolazos date back to 1970s Chile, in response to shortages during the Allende administration. Since then, it has been used in many Latin American countries as a way to express discontent without requiring much organization. Citizens bang their casseroles from their home, at a given time, without needing to meet at a specific place and not risking being the target of violent repercussions from the police. In Puerto Rico, the caselorada began on a Friday evening, before the announced Saturday scheduled time. It continued on for hours, from people’s homes across the island, to the doors of the Fortaleza – the governor’s palace. See this wonderful coverage from the Puerto Rican newspaper, Primera Hora, with a variety of videos of songs by caserola.

Photo by Ricky Reyes Vázquez, Primera Hora

And the caserolas have continued to be heard night after night, 8pm sharp.

We are yet to see how powerful these caserolas are, but they are part of an important chapter in the island’s history. Thank You! Gracias to all of the thousands of people have taken on the streets, or banged the caserolas from home.

The New York City diaspora protest (July 22, 2019)
Cacerolas from NYC (July 22, 2019)

¡Ricky renuncia, y llévate a la Junta!

Soda and Happiness?

Cold, sweet bubbles in the midst of the summer heat…are they a path to happiness? The answers for many is an enthusiastic “Yes!” Most health advocates are increasingly screaming: “No!”

Carbonated soda drinks, along with other sugar sweetened beverages (lemonades, iced coffees, fruit juices…) are the largest source of added sugars and calories in US diets (and, increasingly, worldwide). And they mostly contain artificially added sugars and calories – not much else. To complicate matters further, these are liquid calories, which our bodies digest and perceive differently from those coming from foods. We feel less full or satiated when we drink calories, compared to when we chew and swallow them. On average, a can of soda contains about 150 calories. While food and beverage companies argue that these calories can be balanced out with physical activity, burning those 150 calories of liquid happiness will take you approximately 15 minutes of jumping rope or bicycling 5 miles in 30 minutes (see more options here). Those extra calories and sugar add up. Such “happiness” makes our waistlines expand, but that is not the main problem. Beyond how we look, those happy calories increase risks for Type 2 Diabetes, heart disease, tooth decay, and premature death (more on these health consequences here). Therefore, sugary beverages are the target of many public health campaigns…

While these sweetened beverages are increasingly being equated with cigarettes in public health circles, this was not always the case. Sweet carbonated drinks date back to the 17th century, when chalk and acid were used to create the magical bubbles (carbonation). Added sugars came later, when flavored syrups were invented in the 1930s. But the iconic flavor we all associate with soda was invented in 1866, when doctor and pharmacist John Stith Pemberton combined African kola nut and South American cocaine to create Coca-Cola in Atlanta Georgia, originally named “Pemberton’s French Wine Coca”. Aided by the temperance movement, sodas became an increasingly popular alternative to alcohol (1). Indeed, Coca-Cola was advertised as “the temperance drink”, promoting the drink’s mental benefits, as an non-alcoholic “intellectual beverage” containing the “valuable TONIC and NERVE STIMULANT properties of the Coca plant and Cola (or Kola) nuts,” to cure “all nervous affections” (2).

From mental benefits, the jump to happiness was not that far off. As seen in this vintage ad below, a “strict regimen of sodas” was necessary to place kids on the path towards a “lifetime to guaranteed happiness”!

Source: https://allthatsinteresting.com/health-ads-terrible-advice#3 (along with other interesting ads!)

Sodas have transitioned from being a health tonic, to an occasional indulgence, to an everyday drink in many households. The role of sugary beverages is more important in places where access to clean, drinking water is compromised. Much like cigarettes, sodas are a hefty public health challenge. Much like smoking decades ago, sugary beverages are not yet seen as a real threat by many – thanks in large part to the amazing job of food and beverage transnational industries. As clearly documented by Dr. Marion Nestle, in her amazing book, Soda Politics, these transnational companies have cleverly shifted messaging from nutrition to physical activity, and have influenced research to obscure the dissemination of the real health risk posed by these drinks. They also target low income and minority communities through social entrepreneurship motivating good will in the community (3).

Coca-Cola marketing campaign in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, promoting its relief efforts in the island.

Nutrition education and social marketing campaigns are not enough to combat the happiness aura attached to these drinks – a clear contrast seen in these two images below: Scare tactics versus the very successful “share a coke” campaign:

Public health advocates have pushed for increased regulation, including the implementation of taxes on sugary beverages and front package labeling. While companies have pushed hard and won against many of these regulations, these interventions are becoming increasingly common worldwide. In the end, this is a lively battleground in the increasingly common debates on the role of the the government to curb our hedonistic desires, for our own good.

By Adam Zyglis / copyright 2010 Cagle Cartoons (From The Week)

Sources and further reading:
(1) From Bellis, “The History of Soda Pop and Carbonated Beverages
(2) Eschner, “Coca-Cola’s Creator Said the Drink Would Make You Smarter
(3) See “There’s a new Big Tobacco – and one industry is determined to silence its critics“, as well as Marion Nestle’s Food Politics blog, and books (“Soda Politics” and “Unsavory Truth”) to learn more.