Critics Hiss at Coke’s Obesity PR

Coca-Cola, parent company of Coke, Diet Coke, and a host of other beverages, released a two-minute ad yesterday, aimed at policy-makers, touting the positive changes it has made in reducing the average number of calories consumed by people drinking its offerings. Sugary beverages are often attacked as one of the leading causes of obesity in this country. Americans consume 200-300 more calories per day than they did thirty years ago, and sugary beverages account for the largest increase in those calories.

Coca-Cola’s ad talks about the good work they’ve done to address this issue by replacing sugary beverages in schools with diet sodas and juices, selling more diet sodas overall, and introducing smaller-sized containers of their most popular sugary drinks. However, critics assail the company’s efforts as strictly a public relations ploy to avoid states and other localities taking more stringent–and bottom-line reducing–actions.  New York City has passed a ban on sales of the largest size fountain sugary drinks, a move which the American Beverage Association, of which Coca-Cola is one of the largest members, is challenging in court. Last year, Coca-Cola and other beverage companies funneled $2.5 million through the ABA and other organizations into a city council race, to ensure a proposed tax hike on sugary beverages could not be passed in the relatively small community of Richmond, California.

“They are clearly running scared and for good reason,” said Harold Goldstein, executive director of the California Center for Public Health Advocacy, which led the charge to get sugary sodas out of schools. Dr. Goldstein, responding to Coke’s latest ad, said that if the company really wanted to do something to reduce consumption of sugary sodas, it would sell them for a higher price than its other low- and no-calorie beverages. “Instead of spending millions on a P.R. campaign that will do nothing to combat obesity, diabetes and tooth decay, they would reap profits and change the beverage consumption of Americans in a big and beneficial way.”

Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a Washington, D.C.-based consumer group, says the new ad “is a page out of Damage Control 101, which is try to pretend you’re part of the solution rather than part of the problem.”

Click here to read the New York Times story, here to read the USA Today story, and here to view the ad.

Coke Machine image © Marcus Quigmire / Wikimedia

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