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Health-care research funded by Coke not credible, says consumer group

Coke
James Quincey, Coke’s new president and COO, left, and Muhtar Kent, Coke’s new CEO

The Coca-Cola Co. has a long history of using its spending power to silence potential critics and purchase powerful allies inside and outside of academia.

The public should be skeptical of any nutrition or health research funded by Coca-Cola.

“Would anyone trust lung cancer research funded by Philip Morris?” said Michael Jacobson, president, Center for Science in the Public Interest.

Jacobson said he commends Coca-Cola CEO Muhtar Kent for recognizing that “the way we have engaged the public health and scientific communities to tackle the global obesity epidemic… is not working.”

However, Jacobson said the actions Coke plans to adopt sound like more of the same old public-relations flimflam.

“If Coke truly wanted to salvage its reputation, it also would stop opposing public health measures such as soda taxes or warning labels, and it would stop all marketing of disease-causing products to children and adolescents worldwide,” he said.

Coke is the world's largest beverage company, with more than 500 sparkling and still brands. It manufacturers Diet Coke, Fanta, Sprite, Coca-Cola Zero, vitaminwater, Powerade, Minute Maid, Simply, Georgia, and Del Valle. Consumers in more than 200 countries drink Coke products at a rate of 1.9 billion servings a day.

On its website, Coke says it’s focused on initiatives that reduce its environmental footprint, support active, healthy living, create a safe, inclusive work environment for associates, and enhance the economic development of the communities where it operates.

Coke recently came under fire for donating millions of dollars to a nonprofit that spreads the message that a lack of exercise is to blame for America's obesity epidemic – not its diet, according to a CBS news report.

It’s also been criticized sponsoring sporting events as a means to increase sales and consumption.

In addition to heart-related problems and increased body fat, consumption of sugary beverages such as sodas and fruit drinks has been linked to 184,000 deaths each year worldwide, according to a study published in the journal Circulation. Americans account for more than 25,000 of those deaths.

I’ve written many times on how voluntary actions by the food industry aren’t solving the obesity problem in America. The government needs to regulate the amount of sugar, fat, and salt in processed foods.

Copyright 2015, Rita R. Robison, Consumer Specialist

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