At times, it hasn’t been 100 percent clear to vendors and shoppers what’s covered under Philadelphia’s sugary drinks tax. Look no further than that time ShopRite taxed hot sauce in January.
But a high-ranking PepsiCo employee should probably understand, right?
Well that’s not what it sounded like in a tweet earlier this week from the anti-tax coalition Ax The Bev Tax. The tweet replayed a conversation on WURD 900-AM between host Solomon Jones and Amy Chen, founder of PepsiCo’s Food for Good initiative. In the short clip, as presented in the tweet, Chen says, "We offer a tremendous amount of low calorie, no calorie options, like waters, unsweetened products, low calorie diet items. All of which unfortunately are taxed by this tax."
Unsweetened products and water, taxed? Um, what happened?
First of all, unsweetened beverages and water are not taxed. According to the Mayor’s Office, the soda tax covers all non-alcoholic beverages with any amount of natural or artificial sweetener. Any unsweetened beverage and regular water would not be taxed.
And even in the realm of sweetened beverages there are some exceptions. Drinks that are at least 50 percent milk, baby formula, 100 percent juice, at least 50 percent "fresh" fruit or vegetable are not taxed.
Chen’s conversation with Jones lasted for several minutes, based on the audio file from WURD’s website. So Ax The Bev Tax edited it down for purposes of the tweet. And not only did they shorten Chen’s conversation, the alteration of the clip adjusted what she said.
In her original conversation with Jones, Chen said, "We offer a tremendous amount of low calorie, no calorie options, like waters, unsweetened products, low calorie diet items. All of which unfortunately -- or most of which -- are taxed by this tax." Ax the Bev Tax’s clip removed "or most of which," the portion of her statement where she realized her error of saying all those drinks would be taxed and corrected herself.
Speaking for PepsiCo and Ax The Bev Tax, Anthony Campisi said it was an editing error committed by someone "still getting oriented with the nuances of the tax" and that the anti-soda tax coalition had consistently claimed from the beginning the tax only applies to sweetened beverages. He called it an honest mistake and said, "this just seems like in the grand scheme of things about the beverage tax to be really small stuff."
The Ax The Bev Tax Twitter account played a clip of Pepsi employee Amy Chen saying "We offer a tremendous amount of low calorie, no calorie options, like waters, unsweetened products, low calorie diet items. All of which unfortunately are taxed by this tax." Water, as long as it has no sweeteners added, and unsweetened beverages are not taxed.
Chen actually said on the radio show that "most" of those types of beverages were taxed, but Ax The Bev Tax’s clip was altered. Ax The Bev Tax has acknowledged the clip is inaccurate, with spokesperson Anthony Campisi chalking it up to an editing error by someone still getting familiar with the nuances of the tax. But the error was still made. A true statement by Chen was turned into a false statement by Ax The Bev Tax. PolitiFact regularly challenges politicians who make claims and then later admitted they made a mistake or misspoke or walk their original statement back. This is similar.
We rule the claim Pants On Fire.