Campaign to stop ‘government intrusion’ on shopping offers nothing to back it up

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June 18, 2013

Just as the long-running situation comedy “Seinfeld” was often described as being “a show about nothing,” the current series of “Your Cart, Your Choice” TV commercials now being run around the country by the American Beverage Association (ABA) appears to be a campaign about nothing.

At least, that’s the impression I got by talking to an ABA spokesperson, who could provide nothing in the way of concrete examples of how  “the government” and “some politicians” are trying to do your grocery shopping for you with “new laws, regulations or taxes,” as the commercial alleges — other than citing a couple of obscure state taxes on soft drinks.

That doesn’t mean, however, that the ABA, along with any other trade groups  that may be financing these spots, is spending all that money for nothing.  There’s obviously something behind it – they’re just not telling us what. But whatever it is, this commercial appears to have some sort of preemptive purpose – perhaps to try and thwart any attempt at government regulation, be it on a federal, state or local level – before it occurs, and to collect as many names and email addresses from consumers to join the posse as possible.

The commercial, which is featured at the coalition’s scant site,, shows a stern shopper wheeling her cart through a supermarket saying “give me a break…the fact is, it’s not the government’s job to grocery shop for my family, it’s mine.”

To try and get some information on just how the government might be inhibiting anyone’s grocery shopping, I called the ABA and spoke with a representative, Chris Gindlesperger, who gave me the lowdown, appearing to read from scripted material, but also winging his responses when necessary.

Chris told me that Americans for Food & Beverage Choice sort of morphed from an earlier ABA coalition called Americans Against Food Taxes, which appeared on the scene in 2009 when the prospect of a federal soda tax loomed on the horizon, only to be dismissed by the Congressional Budget office that same year.

“After 2009 the idea of soda taxes sort of spread across the country,” Chris told me, although he could cite only two states where such a tax currently exists, West Virginia – whose soft drink tax dates back to 1950s – and Arkansas, which enacted one in the mid ’90s. (and both those taxes are levied on manufacturers, not consumers).

Food? What food?

While it certainly makes sense that the ABA would be fighting against any such beverage taxes, seeing  how its most “notable” members are Pespsico, CocaCola and the Dr. Pepper/Snapple Group, just what they have to do with “food” and interfering with “what goes in (your) shopping cart” was something I couldn’t get Chris to explain. He circled the question numerous times before finally coming up with “some lawmakers and others would say you can drink a certain drink or not drink another drink or have a certain amount of whatever it is.”

After that powerful statement, Chris appeared to go back to his script, telling me, “I think what really matters here is this: it’s a slippery slope. If it starts with soft drinks or a limit on the size of soft drinks what’s next? Is it the size of the piece of pizza you can get, is it how many French fries you can eat, is it how many apples you can buy at the grocery store?”

“Now no one is going to tax apples or limit them, but you get my point here,” he added with a confirming chuckle.

Apart from the hypothetical references to pizza, apples and French fries, Chris never did give me any actual examples of how “food” figured into this, his slippery slope” reference (which also peppered his spiel) being the only apparent connection between soda and other groceries.

When asked if any other trade groups were involved in the campaign, the only one he would divulge was the Grocery Manufacturers Association, claiming that “we are still recruiting partners for this effort.”  As for whether the Corn Refiners Association (whose members manufacture the high fructose corn syrup used in soft drinks instead of sugar) might be helping support it, he said he didn’t know, but added, “when we hang up, I may call over and ask them to join.”

So by all means, visit the page and watch the video — but be forewarned that if you sign up to “stay connected,” which I did, assuming I would get some kind of information packet, all you are probably doing is adding your name to the list of folks who are “joining” in a theoretical opposition against any future “government intrusion” on their grocery shopping.

In other words, expect nothing in the way of concrete information. Or as says about the commercial: “Video: not safe for people who can’t stand bullsh–”