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Big Soda’s Tax Claim Falls Flat with Grocers

October 11, 2016 | San Francisco Chronicle

In the Bay Area, the beverage industry has already spent about $14 million to defeat three controversial soda tax measures on ballots this November. Almost all of their ads use the phrase "don’t tax our groceries." PHI's Lynn Silver reviews the preliminary data from a study that found that there is little evidence to support the industry's claim that grocery costs will go higher. In fact, people are buying fewer sugary drinks and more untaxed drinks, like bottled water, making sales totals for drinks about stable. Overall grocery bills have also stayed the same.


Sam Mogannam, owner of Bi-Rite, said the idea he would voluntarily raise prices on everything in his store is ludicrous.

"No retailer would ever do that," said Mogannam, who supports the soda tax and called the soda industry’s claims that it is a "grocery tax" a scare tactic intended to cause confusion among voters.

Jim Krieger, executive director of Healthy Food America, said the soda industry is using the "grocery tax" claim to scare people. California law prohibits taxing many items in grocery stores, including unprepared food, he pointed out.

The study being conducted by the Public Health Institute and the University of North Carolina has researched grocery bills from two major chains that have stores in Berkeley and elsewhere.

In preliminary data from the first six months of the soda tax being collected in Berkeley, the study found people are buying fewer sugary drinks and more untaxed drinks, like bottled water, making sales totals for drinks about stable. Overall grocery bills have also stayed the same.

"The industry has been calling this a grocery tax," said Lynn Silver, a senior adviser at the Public Health Institute. "In our preliminary six-month data, we didn’t find any evidence to support that."

Read the full article.