WASHINGTON: Kevin Keane, the former assistant secretary for public affairs at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), has joined the American Beverage Association (ABA) as SVP for communications.
Keane has worked on issues ranging from bioterrorism to Medicare reform. He joins the influential lobbying group as it fends off criticism of soft drinks for fueling the obesity epidemic.
This summer the ABA reversed its position to support a ban on sodas and other sugary drinks in elementary schools.
It has nonetheless argued that these beverages can be part of a healthy diet.
It is working with Porter Novelli to discuss the ban with educators, legislators, parents, and other groups.
The ABA also works with Edelman and Public Opinion Strategies.
Keane downplayed the significance of his former role on his new post. He noted that while nutrition outreach is a major focus of ABA activities, the association also prioritizes issues like water resources and recycling.
"That's certainly an important issue, but it's not the only issue facing our industry," he said about the obesity epidemic.
The ABA came under new leadership in April with the appointment of Susan Neely as president. She was previously assistant secretary for public affairs at the Department of Homeland Security.
"Our charge is to re-energize this association," Keane said.
Keane had held the position as HHS' chief communications officer since July 2001.
Suzy DeFrancis, who was formerly deputy assistant to the president for communications, now holds Keane's former post.