Big Trouble for Big Soda

Big soda companies just suffered a big black eye – following the release of a new study that claims PepsiCo and the Coca-Cola company gave money to nearly 100 national health groups.

From the Washington Post:

Nearly 100 national health and medical groups — including the American Heart Association, the American Diabetes Association and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — enjoy sponsorships by Coca-Cola Co. or PepsiCo, according to a new study by two Boston University researchers.

The report lands as the sugar industry’s supersized role in shaping — and spinning — health policy has come under increasing scrutiny. It also comes as the negative health effects of sugar and sugary drinks, including a link to rising obesity rates, are better understood.

“Now, most organizations refuse tobacco money,” write the study authors, Daniel Aaron and Michael Siegel. “Perhaps soda companies should be treated similarly.”

According to Time Magazine, “Aaron and Siegel researched financial links between Coca-Cola and Pepsi and 96 organizations: 63 public health groups, 19 medical organizations, seven health foundations, five government groups and two food supply groups. They found that Pepsi sponsored 14% of the organizations and Coca-Cola sponsored 99%. However, they believe that the number of financial relationships between Big Soda and public health organizations is likely an underestimate; Coca-Cola recently disclosed its sponsorships, so their financial relationships were easier to find, whereas the study authors say that PepsiCo is “known for making its sponsorship data extremely difficult to track.” 

In addition to the American Heart Association, the American Diabetes Association and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – other organizations that the report links to big soda companies include:

  • National Dental Association
  • American Red Cross
  • Harvard Medical School
  • Center for Food Integrity, and
  • Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation

A Business Insider story stated, “Public-health experts say Pepsi and Coke’s strategy harks back to the days of Big Tobacco.”

“First, they attack the science. Then, they fund community groups, promote exercise as a solution, and say they’re self-regulated and don’t need to be regulated by an outside source,”Marion Nestle, a New York University professor of public health and nutrition and the author of the book “Food Politics,” told Business Insider. 

And Bloomberg added – “These companies lobbied against public health intervention in 97 percent of cases, calling into question a sincere commitment to improving the public’s health,” according to the study. “By accepting funding from these companies, health organizations are inadvertently participating in their marketing plans.”

Share your thoughts on this latest report and whether you believe there is a conflict of interest when organizations accept money from big soda companies. Generating dialogue to help drive innovative solutions to the important health issues of the day is another way we are working toward making Arizona the Healthiest State in the Nation!

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