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Is a low-cal tax credit the solution for obesity?

Jane Choi holds cans of Coca-Cola and Diet Coke in Anne's Deli, in Portland, Ore.

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Soda companies should be given a tax break when they buy up smaller firms that make calorie-reduced beverages, a former soda company executive says.

"If we really want food and beverage companies to help pull calories off the street, improve the nutritional content of their products, and accelerate the reversal of obesity rates, we must provide a pathway to encourage them to step-up their purchases of better-for-you brands developed outside their corporate walls,"

Hank Cardello, who built his career at Coca-Cola, General Mills, Nabisco, and Cadbury-Schweppes, writes on theatlantic.com. Mr. Cardello is now a senior fellow and director the Obesity Solutions Initiative at the conservative Hudson Institute, in Washington.

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"Rather than impose new regulations intended to drive the conversion to lower-calorie foods and beverages, I prefer the carrot," he adds. Elsewhere, Mr. Cardello has also proposed advertising tax credits for companies that cut the number of calories they sell.

His proposal hasn't gone unnoticed by healthier-eating advocates. "Give me a (tax) break," author and journalist Michael Pollan wrote Tuesday night on Twitter.

Others have argued that rather than rewarding the companies that helped create the obesity crisis is the better route: Hungary and Denmark have both levied extra taxes on high-fat foods.

But here's another proposal: Instead of giving soda companies public money to "innovate" dubious new products that aren't likely much better for us, how about spending that cash marketing foods that we know are healthy, like fruits, vegetables and whole foods, and teaching the public how to cook them?

Should food companies get tax breaks for cutting calories in their products?

Editor's note: The Hudson Institute is located in Washington. This version has been updated.

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