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US soft drinks industry defends anti-grocery tax ads

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The American Beverage Association has defended its members after a New York Times article revealed the amount of funding The Coca-Cola Co and PepsiCo are giving to anti-grocery tax ads.

The ABA said it was standing behind consumers and businesses by supporting the ads

The ABA said it was standing behind consumers and businesses by supporting the ads

In a report on Saturday, the Times said more than US$25m had been funnelled by Coca-Cola and PepsiCo into a number of ads in the US that warn consumers of the dangers of new levies on food and drink. The beverage giants want to halt the spread of sugar taxes that have upped the cost in a small number of regions in the US that have implemented them, the Times said.

In a statement commenting on the report, the ABA, which represents beverage makers including Coca-Cola and PepsiCo, said the ads showed the industry "standing with small businesses and consumers by supporting local coalitions of people who want to keep their groceries affordable".

"We believe there is a better way to help people reduce the amount of sugar consumed from beverages and bring about lasting change, including working alongside the public health community and offering more low- and no-sugar options."

The association told CNBC the US soft drinks industry has spent US$23m on ads in Washington and Oregon, where grocery tax ballots are being held alongside mid-term elections. A spokesperson for the ABA told CNBC that the issue was about "people wanting to protect their groceries from excessive taxes".

The ads are being run by groups such as Yes! To Affordable Groceries, which claim to have "bipartisan and diverse support" from consumers and industry groups. The ABA is listed as a partner on the Yes! To Affordable Groceries website.

One of the ads in Washington state shows a shopper attacking taxes on food.

"We should not be taxed on what we eat," the woman says. "We need to eat to survive, and if we have to cut back on what we eat, that's not going to be good - especially for the elderly."

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