Big Sugar Panel, Festival of Dangerous Ideas 2015

Big Sugar Panel, Festival of Dangerous Ideas 2015


>>Well, good afternoon and
welcome to today’s session, this afternoon’s session,
Big Sugar and we’re going to be discussing a
very dangerous idea, is sugar the new tobacco. I’m Sarah Wilson and I’m
the author of, I Quit Sugar and founder of iquitsugar.com. And here to stoke the fire
today I have Damon Gameau, that guy from that sugar film. The guy who treated
himself as a Guinea pig for over the course
of, gosh it was over a year wasn’t
it, Damon in the end?>>60 days.>>60 days, I think
it continued, you had to continue
the experiment where he tested the notion
of eating a whole heap of so-called healthy sugars
to see what it did to his body and I think most of you
have probably seen this film because it’s just been announced as the highest grossing
Australian documentary of all times. So I think a round of applause. [ Applause ] But what actually
qualifies Damon to be here today is the
fact that for 15 years, I just learnt this the other
day, he drank a vanilla Coke and smoked a packet of
fags every single day. He knows what he’s
talking about. Okay, over here I’ve got Jane
Martin who’s the executive manager of the Obesity
Policy Coalition and she has been
working tirelessly for her entire career
lobbying to get change happing in the health [inaudible]
most recently of course trying to sort of tackle the obesity
epidemic here in Australia but prior to that she worked
for 25 years researching and I guess lobbying in the
area of tobacco industry funding and tobacco industry kind of
influence here in Australia. But once again what really marks
her as qualified here today, she used to be a
menthol cigarette smoker. So I don’t really know
what I’m doing here because I’ve never
been a smoker myself but before we kick off
I’ll just remind people to turn their phones onto
silent, don’t turn them off because you are encouraged to tweet using the
hashtag F-O-D-I or FODI. And we will leave time
at the end for questions, about 15 to 20 minutes
so make sure you save up your questions for the end. Now for many of you in the room,
I’m imagining that the notion that sugar is not
that great for us, is not such a dangerous idea,
but around about six years ago in 2010, when I first started to
research into this area and look into the politics and the
science it certainly was. So over the last years I’ve
kind of seen quite a number of changes, I’ve watched as obesity you know
figures increased. I’ve watched as our
sugar consumption goes up despite the best attempts of
various science experts trying to tell us it’s going
the other way. I thought to question why it
was that if we were eating 20 to 40 teaspoons of added sugar
every day why was this being allowed when there was a lot of
science rolling in suggesting that it was 6 to 9 teaspoons
a day, which was sort of the [inaudible] limit. I certainly was exposed
to all sorts of a number of different tactics
from the sugar industry over the last six years, I
was very much their target. And I was watching some
of the science kind of you know roll in,
I’m sure both Jane and Damon have been watching
it as well and seeing that thing shot down or
ignored or glossed over or sort of you know promoted with a
hell of a lot of doubt attached. So more recently I think what
was experienced though is a bit of a critical point where
people resigned to accept that probably sugar has
got some kind of link to the reason why we’re —
you know we’ve got this link to the reason why we’ve
got this obesity epidemic. But I think today
is a great time to actually be discussing
this topic because I think in the last two years the
science has certainly sped up and just last year the World
Health Organisation came out and issued guidelines saying
what do you know that 6 to 9 teaspoons of added sugar
a day is the upper limit that we should be consuming. We’ve got the UK certainly
looking to providing guidelines to this affect as well. Last month of course we were
talking about this before, Coca-Cola got hauled over the
coals for paying scientists to suggest the idea that
sugar was not the problem and we’ll probably be covering
this offer in a moment. We’ve also seen I think
just last night, Dr. Lustig, the peanut boy of
the sugar movement, the antisugar movement
coming out sort of saying that there is certain set of
research groups in Australia who are responsible for
the obesity epidemic here in Australia. And I think you know some of you might also have caught
the Jamie Oliver’s Sugar Rush film just screened in the UK and I think tomorrow night the
Sugar Conspiracy is being filmed on SBS. So great time to be discussing
all of this, so what I want to do is throw a fairly hefty
log on the fire and kick off and Jane I might ask you this,
is the sugar crises really as bad as the tobacco
crisis of last century?>>Okay, I think we’ve got a
really serious public health issue, we know that overweight
and obesity 63% of adults, 25% of our kids which is really
concerning overweight or obese and we know why this is. Their diets, our diets
are really poor and a lot of what adults are eating
around 35% and more than 40% of what children are eating
are not part of a healthy diet and a lot of these products
are ultra processed foods. They’re cheap, they’re
heavily promoted, they are available everywhere and that’s what people are
eating and we can’t be surprised about that but really what
do we need to do about it. And we know from tobacco control that telling people smoking
is bad, is one way to do it but it’s not a very
successful way on its own. What you need to do is increase
the price of these foods that are contributing
to the epidemic, a lot of them are
high sugar foods and particularly targeting
things like sugary drinks which we know contribute
to overweight and obesity. They are a risk factor for
diabetes, these are the kinds of foods that need to
be targeted that need to have restrictions on their
marketing, have restrictions on their availability
and put the price up particularly taxing
sugary drinks.>>So Jane can I ask straight
out is the sugar crisis as bad as the tobacco crisis,
because you’ve seen the two.>>Look I think we’ve really
let it run away from us, I mean we’ve got these huge
epidemic of chronic disease, people living with
diabetes, this will clog up our medical system,
the costs. This will hit homer and
governments will act, it’s just a matter of time
and of course they’re fighting against a very, very
powerful industry, including the sugar industry.>>So I might cut to you Damon,
because of course the difference between sugar and tobacco
to a certain extent, this is only one issue is that
sugar effects children as well, I mean in the main
children don’t smoke.>>I’ve see a YouTube video of
an Indonesian boy at 2 smoking.>>Of course we have all
seen that one, all right.>>It is real.>>All right answer me
is sugar crisis is as bad as the tobacco crisis
in your opinion?>>Well, I think you know the
point we’re talking about is that if we were all just having
a couple of teaspoons of sugar in our cup of tea it
would be fine but the fact that sugar is now found in
nearly 80% of the foods supply. It’s now being linked
to diseases like fatty liver disease,
type II diabetes, obesity, hypertension, these
kind of symptoms. I mean fatty liver disease, non-alcoholic failure liver
disease didn’t exist 35 years ago, it’s now affecting 1
billion people worldwide. And in that time sugar
consumption has grown 46%. Type II diabetes is killing
someone worldwide every 6 seconds. We spend $6 billion in
Australia a year on it, you know and this is a preventable
disease from diet. And sugar is not solely
to blame, there’s no doubt about that but it is a major
player, if not the major player.>>Yes.>>So this is tale of excess, you know we’re just having far
too much, we need the education but we also need people,
government to step in and help us educate and
make some tough decisions.>>We have diet, overweight
and obesity the leading causes of preventable death and
disease, tobacco is number 3, that should be telling
our government something.>>All right, I almost think
that’s the answer isn’t it, it is at least on
par if not worse than tobacco at least today. Okay, so having established that
let’s back track a little bit to the 1950’s and 60’s when
people started to wonder of tobacco and smoking
cigarettes was such a great idea and we had scientists
and consumers starting to ask a few questions. And of course industry,
big tobacco came and fought back to
a certain extent. Jane you obviously are abreast
of all of this, what are some of the tactics that
they used back then?>>You know so the tobacco
industry pooled their resources together and set up something
called the Tobacco Institute of Australia and that was
really a huge lobbying arm. I think I was reading in the
1990’s it had $7 million worth of funding and what
that was engaged — what they worked together
to do was to create doubt around the medical
evidence that was coming out and it was very strong
by that time. In fact, around the relationship
between smoking and disease, so doubt was a really
big tactic that was used. They undermined the
credibility of information that was being put out by
groups like the Cancer Council and the Heart Foundation
and governments in order to again fuel that doubt. They nurtured their own
industry funded scientists and consultants and
paid people a lot of — now it’s coming out that people
who enlisted in Universities, who came from overseas
was sometimes paid by the tobacco industry to
find out what was happening in other countries
like in Australia. And they coordinated attacks on
individuals and organisations to try and put them off putting
their head above the [inaudible] and saying the truth and
the facts about tobacco. So there was — that’s
just what the industry did, they set up something
called the Smoking and Health Research
Foundation to fund scientists to do work around tobacco. Now that wasn’t to find out and
publicise the health effects, that again was to create
misinformation and doubt. And again one of
the other tactics that we see industry
use is to focus on personal responsibility,
you know it’s up to you can make a choice,
I mean it was even worse with tobacco because
it’s highly addictive.>>But this notion of the
merchants of doubt that was one of the big tactics
back then wasn’t it, and Damon this is something
that you pick up in your film, I mean you actually do touch
on the tobacco kind of tactics and I know that you referred
to some fairly comical ways that they went about things, what were some of
your favourites?>>Well, I guess probably
the obvious one which we got in the film is that they
would target children so they had the Flintstones
kind of indorsing cigarettes, having a break and having a
Winston, there was Joe Camel who was like the
cartoon character that was aimed directly at kids. And I guess evens probably one
of the biggest things they did which Jane’s alluded to
was in the 1950’s all of the tobacco companies
got together and they released a statement
in the newspaper, 500 newspapers on the front page
right across America that said a frank statement
to cigarette smokers. And it kind of said look
we hear your concerns, we’ve all got together
with consultable scientists and we can guarantee you that
we care about your health and there is not
scientific evidence to suggest smoking causes lung
cancer or that it’s addictive. And this — they hired a PR
firm that sent out a script to companies all around America and from my experience
even knowing the film, this is exactly what the sugar
industry did in the late 70’s, they got — this word
was out, it was a lot of congressional discussion
around the new guidelines and that sugar was
seen as something that could be very
deleterious to our health. So they paid scientists,
assembled a PR firm, Carol Byoir and Associates who
actually they won, ended up winning the Silver
Amber which is like an Oscar in the PR world for forging
excellence in public opinion. So they completely
put out in the public that in fact the
press release was that scientists dispelled
sugar fears, you know.>>And I mean I think we’re all
seeing this happening you know, even just last month,
like I said with Coca-Cola but we’ll get to
that in a moment because we’re moving on that. I want to just get some more
context first of all as well. Is ask for a lot of people and I get asked this question
all the time, when we’re talking about big sugar who are
we really talking about. Who is big sugar, Jane do
you want to chime in there?>>Well, you know these
things are put on a number of different levels so you have
the sugar growers who are based in Queensland, then you have the
companies that use the sugar, so companies like Coca-Cola,
they take a lot of that sugar, a lot of it is exported
of course, and then you have the
highly processed food, ultra processed food
manufactures like Nestle, those kinds of companies because
as Damon’s film shows a lot of what we eat is
full of added sugar so it’s a really important
part of the food processing. It’s relatively cheap and it’s
a very big part of our diet.>>Just to give context of how
big an organisation they are and firstly the sugar
industry are the largest, I guess donators to
Congressional campaigns in America from any industry,
but also there’s a great story about Monica Lewinski had to
testify exactly what happened in her whole experience and
liaisons with Mr. Clinton and in actually he was
doing the breakup with her in the oval office, it was
like this hour long chat — it’s just not going to work
out between us Hillary –>>The triple [inaudible] not
with Bill Clinton [laughter].>>Oh, really.>>No I have personally not –>>This is all kind of sworn
statements, she had to testify, she said they only had one
interruption and it was when Bill’s phone rang
and it was the head of the Florida’s Growers
Association, Alfonso Fanjul who is one of the
big sugar barons and he actually interrupted
the breakup to take the call because two days before
Al Gore sort of mentioned that they might float
the idea of a sugar tax and Alfonso had rung
Clinton directly and said this isn’t
going to happen is it? He said no. So this is the power they
have, they have direct access, coitus interruptus power.>>What a beautiful segue of pop cultural mish-mashing,
it’s wonderful. But yeah I think there’s big
sugar and there’s the companies and we’re all sort of
aware of who they are but are they working in
cahoots, are they sort of disguising themselves under
sort of you know bogus kind of advisory groups and industry
bodies and that kind of thing, is that what we’re also seeing?>>Absolutely and this is
what tobacco did as well as you alluded to before we’ve
got the global energy balance network which Coca-Cola has
funded and then being called out for doing it two weeks ago. And what they did is kind
of get these scientists to come together and say you
know what we’re all focussing too much on food, you
know we’re worrying about what we eat too much, a
sugary drink here and there, let’s focus on exercise,
let’s get back to counting –>>It your fault for not
doing enough exercise, yeah.>>And that’s kind of — and
they are paid for by Coke to put that message out there and again
this comes back to this idea of creating ambiguity
in the public space. Creating these merchants
of doubt, so that you come to events like this and you hear
this and you say it to a friend at home — and you
go that’s not true because I heard it’s
all about exercise. This is what they
are actively doing so there’s no conclusive
decision making.>>And there was a really
nice tactic that they used and they’ve been using this I
think there was a Jeremey Paxton interview with the head of
Coke a little while back where he took the mea culpa,
yes we know that too much soda or pop or whatever can cause
some problems, we know this. But if you exercise it all
off you should be all right. It’s this kind of moderate,
we’re all in it together.>>There’s a playbook,
there’s a playbook, it’s actually a real
thing and it’s, the tobacco industry had it and
the food industry has got it and there are certain
— there’s like a list, check list that you do and one
of them is pretending to care and show sort of how
we’re really caring about our consumers. We’re going to change our
structure to benefit you. You know so –>>And Coca-Cola has another
global network called Exercise is Medicine, so when you go to your health professional
they will advise you to exercise and that’s giving advice and
support to health professionals, doctors, physiotherapists
to encourage them, to advise their patients to
do more physical activity. So again, obfuscating, focussing
on the exercise side of things and ignoring the other side.>>Apart from the fact that
it’s bogus science as well, calories in equals calories
out just doesn’t stack up but you know they’re playing
on this notion that it kind of would seem to make sense at
least to the everyday person.>>It’s our fault if you get fat or sick then you didn’t
count your calories properly, it’s nothing to do with us, we’re just providing a
food, you got it wrong. So that’s a great
defence to them.>>It was interesting
the other day, my team and I [inaudible]
were looking to sort of you know the science
behind how much water you need to be drinking each day and
they pulled out this study by I think it was the European
Hydration Council that said that soft drink and
caffeine could contribute to a daily water intake. And I kind of went the European
Hydration Council and I said who is that funded by? And we had a very quick
look, it took a few pages through their website to find,
but of course it was funded by what do you know, one
of the big sugar giants. And it’s just a tireless thing
isn’t it having to dig but layer after layer to get
to who’s behind this.>>And when these funded
researchers come out to places like Australia, they’re taken
around to meet politicians, they’re taken around
to meet bureaucrats in the health departments,
they are — and they might not
know who’s funded them or who’s interest
they represent. And that transparency may
be missing and I think that makes it very
difficult to make decisions when you’re not sure of
the conflicts of interest.>>I want to drill down, I think
your point is probably going to allude to this, I want to
drill down now into how some of those big tobacco tactics
are now being used by big sugar and we might kick off with
this notion of research because we’ve touched
on it a bit, Damon what has been your
experience and examples of this kind of thing?>>In terms of research?>>Yeah.>>Well, I mean look there is no
doubt this is what tobacco does, they pay for studies, they
fund scientists to give results that they want to see, so in fact there was a
study done two years ago in a European medical
journal that showed that if a study was
done by Pepsi, Coke or the Sugar Association
it was five times more likely to show no link between soft
drink and disease as opposed to an independent study.>>85% of the studies
that we’re funded by one of the big food giants found out that you know
sugar was innocuous.>>That’s right and look the
other thing that they can do which we actually had an
experience of it in the film is that it’s very easy to
manipulate a particular study to get an outcome that you want and sugar is a really
classic example. The way it metabolises
in the liver, if you give someone sugar
first thing in the morning, once they’ve not eaten anything
overnight it just replaces the spare batteries in your body
so it won’t turn to fat. But if you give that same
person the same amount of sugar after lunch it turns to fat because your batteries
are already full. So general public
don’t understand that but it’s just the way that these
studies can be manipulated, then the media picks up on it
and then bang, it’s out there.>>So you’re saying that certain
scientists will do studies at certain times of day
because they know that’s how the body works.>>Well, we met one in the
film, people have seen the film, you know he’s paid by Coca-Cola
to fly around the world and endorse their message
and he absolutely believes that there is no link
between soft drinks and metabolic symptoms. Yet any other study that’s done
independently says categorically there’s a problem, you know. And this is the lack
of integrity, I mean this is a bigger question
I guess that we need governments to step in and actually
regulate is because they are effecting
lives and that statement that we’re talking about
with tobacco in the 1950’s where they put out
that in the media. Kelly Brownell [phonetic]
and his team at [inaudible] have estimated that cost 16 million
American lives because of that lack of integrity. So what’s happening now
with the Sugar Association, these messages that are going out are actually costing people
lives, they’re killing them, so we need accountability there. You know like especially when it
comes to children [inaudible].>>Of course the problem
with nutritional science and I often say this, is that
it is quite an inexact science, I think Dr. Lustig talks
about this quite a bit is that something like 80% of
nutritional science or 80 to 90% he says is actually
not gold standard science. And that’s just because
you can’t actually go and lock a bunch
of kids in a room and force feed them M &
M’s to see what happens.>>You make a film about
it, that’s what you do.>>That’s right and you get
a Guinea pig, that’s right. But and that’s primarily I
think why you did the film, I remember we talked about it
when you were first talking about doing the film because
nutritional science is an inexact science and of course
these big companies can take advantage of that very fact. What’s been your experience
Jane with this notion of you’ve seen what
tobacco did with research and how they became merchants
of doubt, what are they doing and what is some
examples you’ve seen in the research realm
with sugar?>>Well, I think you know
we haven’t really talked about dental health but
we’ve got these documents which have been made available
through litigation in America and what interestingly one of the tobacco control
research is looked at how did industry influence
the dental health agenda in the 60’s and 70’s and what
they did was they shifted the focus away from sugar onto
other elements of dental health that weren’t nearly as
critical to try and change and influence what
was going to happen. When the World Health
Organisation a number of years ago before this current
report we’re looking at sugar, you know there was huge
influence being used through the U.S. to stop funding
the World Health Organisation.>>Yes.>>Now that pressure was
put on by the food industry, food and beverage industry,
that’s where it was coming from because they were concerned around what they were
going to say around sugar. So there’s huge concerns, but
I don’t think there’s any doubt that sugary drinks contribute
to overweight and obesity, they you know they’re very, very
high risk for a lot of people and they contribute
to tooth decay. And I think those
areas where it is black and white industry are not clear
about that and they use words like when they’re
promoting products. Nestle was doing something
in the school holidays, in big shopping centres, bring
your kids and we’ll talk to you about Mallow and how
good it is for you. I mean really you don’t
need to add sugar to milk, you know it’s great
for kids to drink milk, you don’t need to
put sugar in it. But you know it’s really
about engaging with families, engaging with mothers and
not telling the full story and dressing sugar up as energy. If you see anything with energy, I mean I was feeding my son
Nutrigrain I didn’t know it was more than 30% sugar, I was
really shocked [inaudible]. It’s like feeding him Cocoa
Puffs, no wonder he liked it so much, anyway I mean
now he has to buy it with his pocket money
still bad, but he loves it. But it’s creating that confusion
and creating relationships with, you know the who is in control
of the food supply in the home and often it’s the mother
and putting this stuff, pestering the children, you
know sponsoring kid’s sports with Mallow, with Gatorade
you know it’s about getting into children’s lives and
then the pass to power and the decision making
is influenced by this.>>Damon, I might just ask I
think you know you’ve looked a lot into some of
these other tactics, so research obviously creating
doubt and actually influencing where research dollars go. What other tactics
are they are using, that kind of replicate what
the tobacco industry was doing.>>Well, I mean now they sort
of shout anyone down that speaks out against them and kind accuse
them of being food faddists, and I’m sure if you’ve
experienced that in your life.>>Yeah, apparently I am very
dangerous because I suggest to people they don’t eat fruit,
I don’t think I’ve ever said that but apparently that is
something that gets out there and if you do but then you find
out who’s behind the inferences, but yes creating
doubt and uncertainty.>>And also things like
they will pay for editorials like in sort of magazines or
in newspapers and it will look like an article like you know
ten myths about sugar and Sarah, people don’t realise
it’s actually paid for by the sugar association. It’s dressed up as a
legitimate article that looks like real science but it’s
founded by the association. I guess that’s the
main ones I looked at but also obviously we’ve talked
about the science but I think –>>Schools, I think there was
an example in your film with Up and Go, was that
something as well?>>Oh, that sort of goes back
to what Jane was talking about, that brand loyalty, I
mean they all understand that if they can
get the child young, [inaudible] if you associate an
emotional experience as a child with the product like in
America going to the ballgame with your dad and having a
Coke that will ingrain and sort of be embedded in your psyche
as you get older so that when you have your own
disposable income you will buy that product. And it’s no different
here, my cousin is only 11, she’s a cricketer in Perth and
Powerade paid a $1000 a year, she has to only drink
Powerade at her cricket games. Now this is a drink with
8 teaspoons of sugar in it but maybe if you’ve run a
marathon it might be okay for you but if you’re playing
sedentary cricket at under 11.>>Especially in the outfield.>>There’s not a lot of sweat
going on, I can tell you, you don’t need that drink. You know but she loves
it because she feels like Michael Clark
or LaBron James.>>Yeah. She’s sponsored.>>She tells all her friends
I’m a sponsored athlete, this is the insidious nature
of what’s going on here. That’s what we need to stop
because they’re getting in at that level and ingraining
habits.>>It’s really interesting I
think I often get asked that, you know there’s this notion
that it’s only happening over in America but
it is happening here and just last week
you guys were talking about it just the
other day, you know. The fruit juice, is it
the fruit juice council, the fruit juice industry came
out and said big new edit, another mea culpa type thing. Yes, look fruit juice can be a
bit of a problem and for those of you who aren’t familiar
with this it really contains — apple juice contains
just as much sugar as Coca-Cola glass for glass. And the World Health
Organisation has agreed that it’s added sugar,
they classify it as added sugar to be avoided. But the fruit juice industry has
come out with this mea culpa, look it is a bit of a problem but we advise is you drink
125 mls every now and then. I don’t know anybody
who drinks — I mean that’s what
a mouthful or two?>>It’s a shot, it’s a shot.>>It’s a shot of orange juice, I mean it’s an entirely
ridiculous concept when the bottles
come in 600 mls.>>Save it for later.>>That’s right because
we operate that way. But of course some boot digging, you work at the fruit juice
industries are largely owned by big sugar, the big companies,
you know Coke, Nestle and so on. But yes, Australian
examples abound don’t they and what I was going to ask as
well, is, from a political point of view, Jane, you raised
the idea of these Senators who are being influenced. You raised the notion of
Bill Clinton being directly interfered with and you know
I guess is it happening here in Australia. I know I’ve got one anecdote,
somebody who is very senior in the dietary world
involved in the DAA who is telling me she is
involved in a committee looking at junk food advertising
to children and a very senior former
health minister kind of came into the room, to the committee
and said do what you want but do not tell me to cut junk
food advertising to children, it’s not going to happen. Which I thought was very, very
telling, Jane have you come across examples like
that in terms of on the political
kind of arena?>>Well, I think we have a
real lack of transparency, I mean I’ve been told
the food industry is in parliament all the time and it’s the ultra-processed
food industry, it’s not the apple growers, it’s these large company
have got a lot of money. The pay lobbyists,
they go themselves and then they’ve got you
know these big organisations like the Food and Grocery
Council, the Beverages Council and they are promoting
the same kind of stuff that they are promoting
to the general public. Around science, around you
know obfuscating the evidence, creating a focus on
exercise and they’re doing that with the politicians but we
don’t have the same transparency as they have in the
U.S. the donations to political parties sends
huge amounts to influence and I think the most
obvious thing about this is that for example
when we ask people, you know what do you think
where the junk food advertising to children should be
stopped, more than 90% of people say it should happen. Now the fact that the
governments won’t act on that I think is a sign of the
kind of lobbying that’s going on behind closed doors
that we don’t know about and it’s not just happening within the Australian
Parliament, it’s happening at these big global meetings
of the world economic forum because these companies
wield huge economic power and that’s why it’s so hard. I mean the World Health
Organisation talks about that. It’s this economic power
that’s so hard to fight, so until this economic cost
of these diseases caused by high sugar, high
fat, high salt, ultra-processed food diets. Hits the treasurer and
hits economic viability, that’s why we won’t
see any action because that influence is
virtually insurmountable. And they’re not prepared
to take on big food, they’re just not
prepared to take on the ultra-processed
food industry because they make their
lives a misery if they do, if they don’t the
money still comes in.>>Cuts into that too
[inaudible] I had an experience that where we just
released a film overseas and through Europe and America. And it was incredible to
see the difference in going onto big broadcast
national TV events in America how I was pulled
aside before we went on and there were things I
wasn’t allowed to say. I had to be very careful about
my wording because Unilever, Kraft, these kind of companies
were sponsoring the media so they’re very careful about how the messages
are disseminated.>>I mean you got a bit of
a cheat sheet didn’t you, on what you could
and couldn’t say?>>Well, pretty much it was I
just was asked how would you answer this question — oh no
we’d prefer you didn’t say that, you know well I said what
I’m going to say this. And then they said
well we might get sued because the sugar association is
aware that you’re coming on — like this is how involved
it all is, you know. I think the more — like the
tobacco, things really changed when we understood industry
tactics, people got savvy to it and we need to understand
that the same things are going on with the food industry. And we are not getting the
best, most affordable foods that we should be having
and for our children because this mighty structure,
this capitalism structure is in place and it’s
actually killing us. And we need to think
about how we’re going to move forward from here.>>Well, allow for questions,
which I’m sure there are going to be many of, I actually
just want to cut to should — is it overreacting to say that
the feedback and the pushback from government that
eventually happened with tobacco regulation. Should we be doing the
same, should we be applying that same kind of force
and pressure to sugar and to the processed
food industry, Jane you’ve seen it all.>>Yeah, I know, I’m
really not that old. I wasn’t alive in the 50’s
let’s put it that way. Look I think we have
to learn from tobacco and I don’t think we’re making
a big enough effort myself, I really don’t think
we’re working hard enough and you know I hate to say this but as public health
we’re not doing enough to fight this issue. We’re not out there hard
enough, I mean it is a tough — it’s tough to put your head
above the power pit let me say and there’s quite a
few you know haters as my daughter would
say out there. And sometimes I wonder who pays
for them but we’ve got to do it, we’ve got to do it for our
children, we’ve got to do it to have a healthy,
productive community and I think we all need to
work together as industry work in concert, we have
to work in concert. And we have to be very clear
about what we want to do and what we want to see. And you know it’s
interesting I was asking people about taxing sugary drinks
and if the money goes into programmes to fund
overweight and obesity, particularly with children, 85% of people support
that kind of action. So it’s not the public,
the other thing we need to do better is to get people
like you to speak to the polies, and say we think
this is a problem, we think this is an issue, we’re
concerned because politicians who listen to their constituents and at the moment they’re
not hearing your voices and I think again
we need to funnel, as public health organisations and others you know
in the field public. Funnel that concern
as well as talk more about what the issues are.>>So Damon, I mean
what’s your take, you brought up the sugar tax and obviously there’s a soft
drink or soda tax as well. And there’s been a lot
of pushback, I don’t know to what extent, it’s
merchant of doubting. But the idea that it’s taxing
the poor, or a tax for the poor. What’s your take on it, do you
have a take on the sugar tax?>>Look, I’d prefer not to
have another tax but I think as Jane has alluded to
that look we need something to happen drastically,
it’s not going to happen through education because
we’re going to keep getting — we’re about at the top level. There is evidence to
suggest that it does work and Mexico is really
the only sort of area that’s really
properly tried it and they only did
a small tax really, I think it was about 10%.>>Yeah.>>And they’re already
seeing a decline.>>Again from a very large base.>>That’s right, and I
would only support it if absolutely there
was transparency, that money was going to
subsidise fresh fruits and vegetables to lower
socioeconomic areas. It was changing hospital
food for God’s sake, it was fixing schools so that
there was no sugary drinks in school. It was just a single
rule we use that money to create a better future for
our kids, so is that going to happen, I don’t know. Can we trust the
politicians; I doubt it but that’s the only
way I’d support it?>>Well, I think we’re going
to cut into questions now so I will get anyone who’s
got a question, if you would like to come forward
there’s a microphone over here and over here. Just line up and we’ll start
to field the questions. While you do that I’m going to
ask one final question of both of you, if you were
boss of the world and you could do whatever
you wanted tomorrow to fix this problem.>>Vanilla Cokes for all.>>Flavoured with stevia.>>Marlboro lights.>>What would it be, what do you
think would be a great solution here, Jane do you
want to kick off?>>Yeah, look I’d say
there’s no magic bullet as with tobacco control, it
took a number of different — we learnt by doing really
and that’s what we need to do with this, but I would certainly
say restrict the marketing of high sugar, highly processed
foods particularly to children, let’s protect them until
they’re really able to understand what these
products are doing. I think we should raise
the price of sugary drinks, we’ve got a very
cheap substitute, the evidence is pretty good
and we can support people on low income to minimise
the impact by providing them with you know subsidies for fresh fruit and
things like that. And I think we need to ensure
that we’ve got decent labelling on the front of food
packaging that supports people to make healthier choices. Because people want to
make health choices, people are really motivated
to make good decisions for themselves and their
family and at the moment if using a health claim or food
promoted that’s low in sugar or low in fat or whatever. You’ve got to be you know,
packaged foods you’ve got to be very careful,
it’s very hard to know, so I think those are the
kinds of things, education, empowerment but changing
the environment to make the healthy
choice, the easy choice and shift people
in that direction.>>I’m going to hand the gospel over to you Damon,
what are you –>>I totally agree with
Jane, in terms of the kids, I mean I think — that is,
I see that as a failure on my generation and
generations above me. I mean we’re supposed to
impart wisdom and teach kids, give them a better
life than we had, they’re getting fatty
liver disease, they’re getting type
II diabetes. That is a failing on our
behalf, we’ve let them down, they’re going to live
shorter lives then we are for the first time in history. We need to turn that around
as quickly as possible, if I could wave the
wand I’d love the idea of how would we start
this structure again, how would we set up
the food system again. And I think the first thing we
would do is say you know what the cheapest things need to
be the healthiest things. They need to — if you want
to have a treat, great, a sugary drink that’s
the expensive item. We just flip it around because
at the moment it’s the other way around and people can’t afford
to eat well and that’s madness. Like that’s our fuel, that’s
what makes us who we are, that’s what effects our
leaders in the future. That’s ridiculous, so any way
we can get to turn that around and if it is tax, hey
maybe that’s the goal. But we need to flip that because
it’s absolutely out of whack.>>And I might just
chime in, my big thing that I always say is we’ve
just got to learn to cook because that’s probably one of the most empowering
things you can do. If you want to sort of side
step big food, like you said 80% of our food contains sugar. The food that doesn’t is
real food and what do you do with real food you
can only cook it.>>That’s a good point actually because I remember thinking
towards the end of the film, I was thinking, you know,
how do we do something about this, how do change? Because you watch something
like Inconvenient Truth, which is a climate
change film and other than turning off the lights and buying a Prius what
else can you actually do? It feels so insurmountable.>>Yes.>>But the best thing about
this topic is that you get to decide what you put in your
mouth, you don’t have to worry about the government,
you have to regulate. You can empower yourself
with that knowledge, decide what you give your
kids and to your own body, you actually don’t need
to rely on anyone else, you just need to
get the knowledge.>>Yeah, okay well on that
note if I can get you all to give a round of applause
to our wonderful panel. [ Applause ] We’ve got precisely 15
minutes for questions which I think is perfect
time, microphone number 1 if you’d like to kick off.>>Yes, I have a questions
regards to the big sugar, the big corporation right. I mean isn’t there
a way to make money out of making healthy
food, that’s one thing. And the heads of
those corporations, I find it difficult to believe
that everyone will sit there and go I’m just evil,
let’s kill people. So what is their
motivation to so blatantly go against the healthier
option, like what –>>Well, I’m not going
to solve this quickly, I actually we were going
to put it in the film but had discussions with
somebody that used to work at Coke and his father is
actually one of the founders of Coke and he had
this bit of an epiphany where he stepped
out of the company. He was involved with marketing
and he said I got to a point where we literally sat in
the office all day and looked at our target numbers that
we had to reach each week and we had to hit that goal, otherwise we didn’t
get our bonuses or the company didn’t progress. That we never once considered
the impact it was having on an average community,
on the people out there. So I don’t think these
people are inherently evil, I just think they’re caught
in a system that says we need to make money to survive and
that’s what’s letting us down, that we are choosing
industry over human beings.>>It’s capitalism as you
mentioned from the outset, your first question is
what is stopping big sugar or these big food industries
from promoting healthy food and making money out of
healthy food [inaudible]. Jane what do you recon?>>Well, I think they are
concerned that they’re not going to get the same profits
that they get from these highly processed
foods and don’t forget they’re in the business of making a
profit for their shareholders, that’s their bottom line
and that’s what drives them. They’re not there to improve
the health of the population, that’s what governments
are meant to do and I would like to see government step up. And you know use their influence because I don’t think we can
expect industry to change.>>I think the other thing to
bear in mind as well is that one of the cheapest substances
on the planet is sugar, if you want to make your product
particularly cheap and also to preserve it, is just jam
it full of sugar, so yeah.>>But I think that industry
is emerging, I mean I see from people that there is — there’s people here
probably they’re here for a reason is a revolution
happening at the moment, there are more companies
making real healthy foods. People are planting
foods locally, there is a shift happening
and it’s an exciting time.>>Shareholders are humans
you know and so I think if you empower the
shareholders to be more ethical, that’s another way of putting
pressure to the system and –>>That’s a good point.>>Thank you.>>Crossing over here, thank
you, microphone number 2.>>Thanks, Damon first
of all great movie.>>Thank you.>>Very entertaining and very
informative, I watched it on the flight [inaudible].>>Did you have your orange
juice and banana muffin while –>>Actually to tell you the
truth I didn’t finish my orange juice, so you may
[inaudible] thank you.>>125 mls.>>The question is you’ve
drawn a lot of parallels between the big tobacco
and the big sugar and we’ve made huge headways with the big tobacco
so that’s great. One of the anti-smoking
campaigns — a big anti-smoking campaign is
the whole break the addiction.>>Yeah.>>Okay that we see and
you don’t actually need to get big tobacco to change
anything with what they’re doing to have this break
the addiction campaign but we don’t really see
that with big sugar. And there is a huge addiction
there I can speak first person here, I’m hugely addicted to it. Do you see any value
in having some sort of break the addiction campaign and the support channels,
etcetera? When it comes to –>>I think you need to
understand that word is the word that big industry runs
from like no other word. The minute that sugar
is conclusively proven to be addictive, it opens up a
litigious can of worms for them because it’s in so many
food products we’re going to see law case of it,
it’d just be a nightmare so I don’t think we’ll ever
see it proven conclusively to be addictive,
we all know it is. Some of us are more sensitive
than others and I think we’re at the start of a
very big conversation, I mean with tobacco we were
having these chats for years ago and look how far we’ve come. I think it’s starting
to be more accepted, there’s more studies coming
out sort of saying and alluding to the fact that it is very
addictive to some people. But I think we’ll look
back at this time, like we do with tobacco and you
look at the Flintstones smoking and we’ll see Beyonce
endorsing Pepsi to kids or see our Australian cricket
team eating buckets of KFC in the middle of a
childhood obesity crisis. And we’ll go gee that was
a bit weird wasn’t it. You know I think we’ll get
there, we’re not there yet but these are the conversations
that we need to have and it’s fantastic, you know.>>Thank you.>>And you can choose to
quit sugar in the meantime, you can just do it and
start cooking and you know.>>It’s not easy though.>>Well, I can help
with that [inaudible].>>Did you set him up?>>I paid him earlier,
microphone number one.>>Hi, thanks this has all
been really interesting, could you please help define for
me what you mean by big sugar because there’s a lot of kinds
of sugar, glucose, fructose, lactose, etcetera so just
a definition [inaudible].>>Damon, go for it.>>Well, usually what we’re
referring to is added sugar here so it’s not like the milk
industry are out to get us with their lactose,
I think it’s more that you know the World Health
Organisation now defines and added sugar as fruit juice,
as high fructose corn syrup, as a guava, as rice malt
syrup, there’s anything that you are adding to a food
is considered added sugar. So I guess when we refer to big
sugar we’re probably looking at the big — like Coke,
Pepsi, Kraft, Nabisco, Nestle, those kind of people that
are all in bed together.>>Thank you.>>Number 2.>>Hi, [inaudible] thank
you for bringing this out into the public arena, I think it’s really good the
more people the better hear about sugar. My question is, have
you seen any evidence that the pharmaceutical industry
are also involved particularly with the rise of insulin
sensitivity drugs are being prescribed over and
above sending off people to a dietician or a
nutritionist and does it go as far back perhaps as
instilling fear of fats back into people back in the 60’s that then increased
statins for instance?>>Jane I thought you might
be a good one for that one.>>You know that’s a story.>>Well, actually I’ve
been asked to make that by quite a few people but I don’t that’s [inaudible] I
think I would actually be killed making that film.>>Yeah, I mean from my
experience the pharmaceutical industry is very, very
interested in finding a cure for obesity with a pill, that’s
really what they want to find. Now everything they’ve got on the market has been
taken off the market because it’s dangerous so they
haven’t been able to do that but there are big bucks in this
field and you know a huge amount of our pharmaceutical
spending goes on drugs to treat overweight and obesity. So the pharmaceutical industry
has a huge interest in here and again they are as you allude to a very powerful
group in government.>>Jane have you seen any kind
of evidence as to the question of this already happening because of course big pharma
is going to have interest in ensuring that we don’t
come up with a simple solution like changing what we
put in our [inaudible]. You know have you seen them
influencing, stepping in, you know doing notion of
doubting type tactics?>>Well, there’s a lot of
funding provided and a lot of scientists have
interest or a lot of people in the diabetes field have —
take funding or do consultancies for big pharmaceutical
companies, so that’s very, very common when you declare
your conflicts of interest. They’ll be people doing
research for Coca-Cola but they’ll be people
who are doing research with these pharmaceutical
companies as well. But not everybody again
necessarily is aware of that.>>Yeah.>>There’s no doubt
they pay visits you know to doctors regularly and sort
of push certain products, I mean anecdotally but I
have a very good friend who is a doctor who’s had quite
a strong argument representing the pharmaceutical
company that sort of said look why don’t we
just tell them to eat better. And her answer was that would
be terrible for business. So it’s very real, I mean 70%
of people in America are now on some kind of prescription
medication. So this whole –>>[Inaudible] patients with
their health care provider, first and foremost, that’s
why people look for it.>>That’s right I think again
what we talked about before, we’re in the middle of a
shift of understanding that — I’m finding it and
you will find it too, that people don’t know how
to eat and they write to us in the paper, what do you mean
by real food or where do I start because we’ve developed
this system that says you can do whatever
you want, you can take a pill for it eventually
and you’ll be fine. So this kind of changing
the thinking that these foods are fundamental
to the way you feel and think and look and your health,
that’s actually going to take some work, you know. And that’s a very sad thing to
say but it’s true, you know.>>One thing that I think that
people can do, I don’t know if you guys agree with
me is that if you do hear of a study being done whether
it’s a pharmaceutical orientated or a big food orientated
study just Google it, find the original paper,
go down to the bottom or the sponsor section or the declared interest
section and have a good look. And see who is behind it, it is actually a really
interesting exercise and it is worth having
those discussions especially with any relatives that think
your conspiracy theorist, fathers in particular. Okay over here, oh
we’ve got a — can you reach the
microphone there?>>Yes.>>What’s question?>>Are you going to make a
film together and are you going to make a second sugar film?>>Damon, big one.>>You put me on the spot there. I think I need to treat my body
with a little bit more respect and give it a little bit more of
a break before I do that again, but I’m certainly excited
about making more things. Certainly, I had no interest
in this before I started but now I’m very passionate, but they’ll be something
else, so keep an eye out.>>Good one.>>Thanks for your question.>>Okay, over here.>>Sure this question
is for Sarah, so there’s a grand
experiment taking place in the U.S. right now, where private healthcare
companies are emerging who are financially incented to improve the health
of their patients. So to those company’s
sugary drinks, unhealthy foods mean losses
on the order of hundreds of millions to billions
of dollars. So I work with one of these
companies, which is still in its earliest stages and my
question to you is for someone like us what are the
concrete first three things that we should be doing
to start to actually, whether it’s lobbying or
what to start to fight against big food in
these local areas?>>So the question is to me?>>I’m sorry to Jane.>>Oh, to Jane that’s
all right [inaudible].>>Look what — I love the
idea of more people coming in with a focus on this issue
because we really need people like you who are in the business
of you know, you’re paying for it and to make it better. So look I think, come and talk
to me, let’s work together, really I think the more we work
together the more our voices are united saying the same thing. The easier it is
for governments act and the harder it is
for them not to act. So I would expect that there’s
going to be a lot more companies like you out there and I’ve
already met quite a few, a lot of social entrepreneurs
who are really interested in making a difference and
gee, we need you so yeah, I’d love to work with you,
I’ll see you afterwards. Just email me, I’ve got no
money though [laughter].>>[Inaudible] okay over here.>>Thank you very much this
has been quite illuminating but a proposition
first then a question. The proposition is this, I’m
a biodynamic farmer and I was at a biodynamic conference
[inaudible] really keynote speaker who’s name I’ve
actually forgotten [inaudible]. And he put this up, he said
sugar promotes consumption. Quite fascinating if
you think about it. Next questions, this is a bit
scary and I could be shouted out of here not the first
time, but is what’s happening with this sugar potentially
an exercise in eugenics. Not for a choice but what it
is, it’s a frightening question.>>Wow, you’re a great person to
present these dangerous ideas. And I am just going
to flag unfortunately to the two people still at the
microphones, we don’t have time for any further questions,
so that will have to be the last question. So let’s see if we can get
particularly contentious.>>Well, we kind of allude to
it very loosely in the film as you know are we in some way
being controlled by substance, that absolutely activates
reward centres in our brain and it effects the way
we perceive the world. And if we’re having 40
teaspoons of it a day, does that actually effect
the way we live and exist, so I mean that’s as far as
I’m going to stretch it. That maybe we’re all just
a nation of drug addicts and we are — I think that’s
what you’re alluding to. And I think we rely on pharmaceutical
medication perhaps so, you know so I’m just
trying to help you flush out your argument here.>>And I guess the bigger
picture is are we all partaking to our, you know to
our knowledge or not in a huge experiment,
much like the one you did over the course 60 days. But I think that’s the
question that people probably –>>I think it should be
made into a film and shown to other planets
as a giant movie.>>That’s right, I mean it’s
a really interesting way to view it though, if
you stand back and go, what the hell is going on
here, this is happening and this is happening and
what do you know we’re all getting fat. And we’ve got children that
are sick and this is happening at the same rate as
you know [inaudible] –>>I will add to that, that
it does sometimes appear to be madness, the fact
that you know even the fact that we’re promoting
excess carbohydrate intake when type II diabetes
is a disease of carbohydrate metabolism. And actually we didn’t
put it in the film but spoke a woman called
Louise Light who her job was to develop the first ever
food pyramid in America. And she took a year with a team
of nutritionists that went away, studied all the research
and came back and sort of said you know, pretty
much fruit and vegetables, sugar at a minimum and
for a woman no more than one sandwich a day
or if you’re active. And handed it to the USDA who
of course represent industry and that sort of one
little bit of wholegrain down at the bottom turned into 7 to 11 serves that
were recommend. And she even said that anything that was refined
carbohydrate were croissants, donuts they should be up
with sugar in the apex. But then industry included them
in the seven to 11 servings. So she said to them if you do
this you will see and outbreak of type II diabetes and
obesity, no doubt it.>>Yeah and you look at
the FDA’s food pyramid when they’ve got the
little illustrations, they’ve got their
little piece of bread and then they’ve got a doughnut
and then they’ve got a piece of cake and [inaudible].>>Yeah, so it’s hard not to ask the big dangerous
questions when you hear that?>>Do you have a final
thought there, Jane?>>Well, I think you know these
kinds of habits and epidemics, they get worse over time and if
a mother is overweight or obese and has a baby you know
you can pass this on. So we have got a ship that’s
sailing through, a big ship and we need to slow this ship down before we can turn it
around, so you know it’s going to take some time, we are
fighting a really big foe. It is really impacting
on us as a society and I think we just
need to think about how can we do better.>>And I might just close
with a quote that I always like to refer to in this kind
of arena, Schopenhauer once said that I think there’s three
phases of truth and one is of doubt and questioning and
the next is violent opposition and the next is acceptance, so
of course it’s self-evident. And I think — I’m hoping that
we can turn this ship around and face things and accept it and see it’s all self-evident
before we hit the iceberg, just to continue
the analogy there. Thank you very much and I
hope you all enjoyed the rest of your afternoon [applause]

8 thoughts on “Big Sugar Panel, Festival of Dangerous Ideas 2015

  1. The point about increasing the price on sugary drinks really hit home…when planning a birthday party as an example, you really want to aim for the cheapest option for foods…so if you see two massive bottles of soft drink for $4 for both that's a score regardless of knowing it's bad for you…if they are $8+ each: I (and I'd say most people) wouldn't think twice about getting it.

  2. Sarah's "Rich Girl Hair" let her down… Did she even see the Doco "It lasted a year!". And the noisy earing…. Jane. Damon is right – big pharma would wack him in a heartbeat if he made a statin expose.

  3. If you work for the food industry, please state this when you post, it would be useful for those of us who aren't sugar shills.

  4. omg! 'Sponsored' 'athlete' aged 11yo! Brilliant! Thanks for posting. Medical and political awareness so obviously absent. Shameful. Public needs to be aware how you are being manipulated. There are worse things than death. No money for The Obesity Coalition? I now have a plan …

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