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Let’s move! USDA loans $25M for diet cola sweetener

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Politics,Beltway Confidential,Joel Gehrke

President Obama’s Agriculture Department, which forms an integral part of First Lady Michelle Obama’s war on childhood obesity, announced it will provide a $25 million loan guarantee to support the manufacture of a sweetener used in soda pop beverages.

Myriant Technologies will use the loan guarantee to build a plant in Louisiana. “The facility will make succinic acid, which is used primarily as a sweetener within the food and beverage industry,” the USDA noted. Diet cola beverages in particular rely on succinic acids, according to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The acid is also a prospective ingredient in bio-based plastic products, such as Coca-Cola bottles, according PRW. “Currently it is made from butane, using petrochemicals, but the new plant will convert grain sorghum, an actual food source and a sustainable resource source, into succinic acid and ammonium sulfate,” the USDA added.

The new USDA nutrition guide, MyPlate, does not include diet colas. The first lady, who spearheaded the healthy foods initiative that generated the nutrition guide, recently praised New York City Michael Bloomberg’s proposed ban on the sale of large soft drinks.

“I applaud local leaders including mayors, business leaders, parents, etc., who are taking this issue seriously and working towards solving this problem,” Mrs. Obama said of the Bloomberg ban. “But this is not something the administration is pursuing at a federal level and not something I’m specifically endorsing or condemning.”

In addition to the USDA money, the company received $44 million in Energy Department grants and $10 million from the state ($79 million in subsidies, total).

Myriant touts its independence from government subsidies on its website. “[O]ur products don’t require government subsidies to be cost-competitive with traditional, petroleum-based chemicals,” Myriant says. “[O]ur technology platform takes care of that.”

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