Monday, January 4, 2016

CrossFit's War on BIG SODA.
Coke and Pepsi don't want warning labels  spelling out the dangers of sugar on their cans and bottles. Greg Glassman, the outspoken founder/owner of CrossFit, does, and says he's dedicating his life to reduced sugar consumption. 

I had a story in the L.A. Times on Sat. Jan 2, 2016  ( about CrossFit founder Greg Glassman, who is pushing for support of  California State Bill # 203, which would make California the first state to put warning labels on sugar-laden colas and sports drinks,  noting their contribution to obesity and chronic diseases like diabetes. The story named names, spotlighting the state senators who abstained from a crucial vote last year that killed the bill. The same bill is up for a vote again in 10 days.

FYI:  The story was toned-down in the editing process, deleting any mentions of a link between beverage industry contributions  to politicians and their votes (or non-votes) on this issue. So while the thrust of the story is intact,  the politicians and the Coke- and Pepsi-led American Beverage Association (ABA) got off easy. Also removed: Some quotes from Glassman that referred to his attempts to meet with one of the four state senators who helped defeat the bill by abstaining from a key committee vote: Isadore Hall of Compton, who ironically has his own anti-obesity/diabetes  website for kids that warns against consuming soft drinks.  After that, Glassman threatened to spend big money ("$5 million") to unseat  Hall in his bid for a US Congressional seat this fall, backing an opponent more favorable on the cola issue.

The big picture to me here that it's only fair to ask politicians to be accountable to the public.  Saying one thing and doing another?  The press has a responsibility to call attention to this.

You can read my original story here:

CrossFit flexes its muscles against sugar and “Big Soda” 
Aiming at diabetes and obesity, it presses for warning labels on cans and bottles
by Roy M. Wallack
CrossFit changed fitness. Now, the high-intensity workout colossus, with 13,000 licensed gyms world-wide, 150,000 trainers, and millions of gasping participants frantically doing burpees, thrusters and clean-and-jerks, wants to get us to cut back on sugar-packed sodas and energy drinks, considered by many the key agents in the steep rise of obesity, diabetes and other chronic diseases.
“We’re in a holy war with Big Soda,” said CrossFit founder and CEO Greg Glassman to a crowd of 200 at Carson CrossFit on a Saturday night in late November. “It's killing this country's health." 
Pitting CrossFit against the powerful beverage industry, Glassman recently led a dozen rallies at affiliated gyms across the state in support of State Bill # 203 (SB203), the Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Safety Warning Act. Sponsored by Bill Monning, D-Carmel, SB203 would make California the first state to require sugar warning labels on soft-drink cans, bottles and vending machines The warning, similar to that on cigarette packs, would read, "STATE OF CALIFORNIA SAFETY WARNING: Drinking beverages with added sugar(s) contributes to obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay."   Labels are known to lower use by causing people to think before they drink. 
The Coke- and Pepsi-backed American Beverage Association (ABA), which represents the soft-drink industry, has lobbied hard in influential California; in 2014, it spent $12 million against proposed soda-tax laws in San Francisco and Berkeley. SB203, up for a vote on January 13, 2016, was defeated a year ago in a narrow loss widely credited to ABA pressure.  Despite a poll that showed 74% of voters favor warning labels, the bill failed in the 9-person Senate Health Committee, which voted 4 "ayes," one "nay" and 4 abstentions, one short of the five "ayes" needed. One more vote for the resubmitted bill next month, will move it forward. 
Although CrossFit would see no financial gain from reduced soda use, it's a mission for Glassman. He's been anti-sugar for decades. 
"Training thousands of clients taught me that you are not going to exercise your way out of a shitty diet," he said. So in 2000, when he operated a single gym in Santa Cruz, he made "Eat No Sugar" a part of CrossFit’s philosophy. Today, rich beyond his wildest dreams and determined to do the right thing, Glassman flew up to Sacramento to meet anti-Big Soda and pro-SB203 crusader Dr. Harold Goldstein, founder of the California Center for Public Health Advocacy. He hired a high-priced lobby group, built a website called to generate emails, and targeted his November gym talks to the abstainers’ districts. 
Claiming 4,500 emails were generatedGlassman says he'll ask the rest of his 900 California gyms to swamp the senators with 100,000 emails if he has to — as well as organize his own Political Action Committee and threaten to financially back the abstainers’ opponents in the next election. 
So far, a month before the vote, the abstainers haven't budged. All four, Health Committee Chairman  Dr. Ed Hernandez (D -West Covina), Richard D. Roth (D-Riverside), Isadore Hall III (D -Compton), and Janet Nguyen (R -Garden Grove), ignored calls to talk with Glassman and to comment to the Times for this story. Among them are three Democrats, a doctor, an African- American, and two districts with large black and Hispanic populations, groups that disproportionately suffer high diabetes and obesity rates — roughly 1.5 as much as whites and Asians, according to several studies.   
Senator Nguyen's chief of staff, Mark Reeder, admitted his boss’ abstention didn't go down well in the heavily Hispanic district, which includes Santa Ana. "We got a fair amount of unhappy letters back in April, generally saying 'It’s a health issue,'" he said. "Some minority groups met with us, thinking they are being targeted by the soda makers."  

The ABA also turned down a Times interview request;  its CalBev affiliate sent this statement: “Addressing obesity and diabetes is more complicated than a warning label, which is why California’s legislators have repeatedly rejected misguided policies like S.B. 203." 
Health activist Goldstein, a force behind SB203, wasn't surprised. He’s fought Big Soda for two decades, winning a soda ban at California schools in 2006 and a calorie labeling on restaurant menus in 2010. 
 "The beverage industry tries every trick in the book —  campaign contributions, hiring their own researchers," he said.  "They've been paying politicians to keep quiet for a long time. They beat soda taxes in Chicago and San Francisco. They’re fighting tooth and nail to kill SB 203. "
When 76% of Berkeley’s electorate voted "yes" on the nation’s first-ever soda tax in 2014, ABA spokesman Christopher Gindlesperger issued a warning: “Berkeley is not like mainstream America. If politicians in this country want to stake their reputations on what Berkeley’s done, then they do so at their own risk.”
Goldstein hadn't heard of CrossFit when Glassman called him last summerHe advised targeting Hall, an African-American, Compton native, city councilman, state assemblyman and senator since 2008, and now candidate for the U.S. 44th Congressional seat in 2016.  Thought to be less subject to ABA lobbying efforts, Hall’s district was also home to 40 CrossFit gyms and the annual CrossFit Games at Carson’s Stub Hub Center. Despite that, he cancelled two appointments with Glassman, including on December 16 after Glassman had flown into LAX from his Arizona home. 
“I don’t think he had a choice,” said an irked Glassman. “Hall's stuck. He picked his allies early. Well, now I go to Plan B: Support his opponent in his campaign for Congress. His district is 70% Latino, and I’ll back his Latina opponent in the Democratic primary, Nanette Barragan [mayor pro-tem of Hermosa Beach], who is making ‘health inequity’  —unequal health care for minorities — a key issue. I’ll throw $5 million into his face. I’ll have people dig into his finances — and expect to see lots from the ABA.” 
Glassman, used to seeing people sprout muscles and shed fat in a few weeks, knows beating Big Soda will take time.  "Money is no object," says the 58-year-old father of seven, six of them aged from 9 years to six months. "Every day in the gym, we fight chronic disease, but the debilitating effects of sugar are overpowering.  For the rest of my life, I'll be a one-issue guy — and it’s not global warming or ISIS. It’s reducing sugar consumption." 


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