Will tell history of carbonated beverages, ties to obesity

Neal Baer has set his sights on soda as the subject of his next nonfiction book and documentary project.

The former “Law & Order: SVU” exec producer has cut a deal with Rodale Books to co-write “Soda: Corporate Profits Versus Public Health” with prominent nutritionist Marion Nestle. He’s also working with docu filmmakers Patrick Creadon and Christine O’Malley (“Wordplay,” “I.O.U.S.A.”) on a companion doc.

Baer, who is a licensed physician and a professor at USC’s Keck School of Medicine, aims to tell the history of how carbonated sodas became a staple of the American diet. Like many doctors, Baer sees soft drinks as a major contributor to rising obesity rates, particularly for children. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg made national headlines last month in championing a ban in Gotham on the sale of super-sized soft drinks in light of mounting health concerns.

“There are so many stories to tell about how soda was developed, about corporate strategies for promoting soda, about government subsidies for corn syrup,” Baer told Variety. “It’s a look at the cultural and historical meaning of something that is ubiquitous in our lives.”

Nestle is a well-known public health advocate who teaches at NYU and Cornell, and she pens the blog FoodPolitics.com.

“Soda” is targeted for publication in 2014. Baer said the goal is to have the docu follow soon after the book’s release. Baer, Creadon and O’Malley are in the process of shopping for financing for the project. The trio are already collaborating on another docu, “Studio H,” that has been funded by the MacArthur Foundation and Sundance Institute. Baer, Creadon and O’Malley were in Park City, Utah, last week to take part in a Sundance Lab workshop on the pic.

“Studio H” tells the story of educator Emily Pilloton, who launched a nonprofit org dedicated to teaching basic building design skills to high school juniors in a poor region of North Carolina. The “Studio H” docu is expected to bow next year.

Baer wrapped 11 seasons on “SVU” last year and spent the past TV season as the showrunner of the CBS drama “A Gifted Man.” In January he published his first novel, “Kill Switch,” co-written with longtime collaborator Jonathan Greene, and he is working on a follow-up, “Kill Again,” due out next year.

Baer’s deal for “Soda” was brokered by his book agent, Lydia Wills.

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