Pepsi’s partner in Japan is marketing a new “Pepsi Special” drink abroad that claims to suppress the absorption of fat with a dietary fiber named dextrin. Although the company claims that Pepsi Special could be the first “healthy” soda — and the product has even qualified for a government-designated label in Japan that identifies it as a nutrition-related product — U.S. health experts warn that it’s probably too good to be true.
The long-term effects haven’t been studied, but some Japanese scientists warn that consuming high levels of dextrin can cause stomach pain and bloating in the short term. And even aside from the supplement’s potentially negative effects, Time reports that Pepsi Special is unlikely to make it past the Food and Drug Administration’s standards if Pepsi were to attempt to market it in the United States:
Dr. Walter Willett, chair of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health, added in an email statement: “Unless Pepsi can provide data from controlled studies in humans to the contrary, their claim should be regarded as bogus and deceptive.”
In fact, Pepsi may face challenges if it decides to bring Pepsi Special to the United States, since the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) tends to frown on such potentially suspect nutrient-boosting of essentially unhealthy products in an attempt to make them healthier. [...]
“You shouldn’t add good things to bad things because that could encourage people to eat something that isn’t healthy for them,” said Michael Jacobson, Executive Director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), a food safety and nutrition consumer advocacy group.
The FDA already has its hands full attempting to regulate soft drinks on the American market. Some lawmakers are pressuring the agency to reconsider the way it currently regulates energy drinks, after recent reports have suggested a potential link between energy drinks and American deaths. Energy drink companies often don’t disclose the actual amount of caffeine their products contain, and allowing Pepsi to market its new soda as a “nutrition supplement” in the U.S. could introduce another area where the FDA needs to step in to regulate advertisement standards.
And recent research has conclusively linked sugary drinks to America’s obesity epidemic — suggesting that Pepsi’s misleading claim that it has created a “healthy” soda could actually undercut public health initiatives to limit excessive soda drinking, like New York City’s ban on the sale of sugary drinks over 16 ounces. But the companies that market soft drinks are often simply concerned about their bottom lines. Members of the soda industry, like Pepsi’s company, filed a lawsuit in September to attempt to block New York City’s new soda regulations from taking effect.