Big Soda suffered a blow last week in Colombia when the Supreme Court ruled against the censorship of information on the public health impacts of sugary beverages.
In August of 2016, the consumer advocacy group EDUCAR Consumidores along with the coalition Alianza por la Salud Alimentaria aired a public service announcement on Colombian television highlighting the public health impacts of consuming sugary beverages. The PSA, titled “Take it Seriously” (Tómala en Serio) shows how easy it is to consume 47 teaspoons of sugar in a single day by drinking just a few servings of juice, sweetened tea, and soda. The PSA—which also points to obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cancer as dangers of excessive sugar consumption—was taken off the air in early September by the Chamber of Industry and Commerce just as public debate was ramping up on including a sugary beverage tax in the country’s tax reform law. Civil society widely denounced the move as censorship and a violation of the freedom of expression. The legal group DeJusticia filed a suit on behalf of EDUCAR, which was upheld by the Supreme Court on April 5, declaring that consumers have the right to “access information about the positive and negative consequences that a product may have on their physical and mental integrity.” The ruling is being touted as a major victory in Colombia and throughout the region in the fight against Big Food and Big Soda.