Getting Health Advice from Big Soda? New Study Says Yes

BIG SODA
Coca-Cola Co. and PepsiCo—the nation’s two biggest soda companies—are also frequent sponsors of numerous health studies, new research reveals.

Close to one hundred health and medical groups in the U.S.—a list that includes the American Heart Association, the American Diabetes Association and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—have received funding from the two Big Soda brands in efforts to diffuse recommendations on soda reduction, found a Boston University research team.

“The authors identified 96 sponsorships, from 2011 to 2015, by Coca-Cola or PepsiCo to 96 ‘health organizations,’” reports the Washington Post. “During that period, the researchers identified 29 proposed public health bills or regulations that one or both of the two companies lobbied against. All aimed to reduce soda consumption.”

The news comes after another recent study found decades-long efforts by the sugar industry to deflect concerns over sugar’s impact on health and push blame onto fat instead. Those efforts spurred on a low-fat craze that compensated the loss of flavor with excess sugar—a move that’s been connected to the nation’s obesity and type 2 diabetes epidemics.

“The study raises the concern that, besides using their sponsorships to ‘develop positive associations for [Coca-Cola and Pepsi products],’ they can often lead to silencing potential critics,” reports the Post. “In 2010, Save the Children, which had been a strong advocate of soda taxes, ended its support after receiving a $5 million grant from Coca-Cola.”

The American Beverage Association, of which Coca-Cola and PepsiCo are members, commented on the release of the research, stating: “America’s beverage companies are engaged in public health issues because we, too, want a strong, healthy America. We have a long tradition of supporting community organizations across the country. As this report points out, some of these organizations focus on strengthening public health, which we are proud to support.”

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Jill Ettinger

Jill Ettinger is a Los Angeles-based journalist and editor focused on the global food system and how it intersects with our cultural traditions, diet preferences, health, and politics. She is the senior editor for sister websites OrganicAuthority.com and EcoSalon.com, and works as a research associate and editor with the Cornucopia Institute, the organic industry watchdog group. Jill has been featured in The Huffington Post, MTV, Reality Sandwich, and Eat Drink Better. www.jillettinger.com.