Monday, October 10, 2016

Study finds soft-drink giants spend $9 million a year to sponsor 96 national health organizations

Ingredients in a can of Coke 
Nearly 100 national health organizations accepted money from the Coca-Cola Co. and PepsiCo from 2011-15, says a study by researchers from Boston University published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. During that same time period Coke and Pepsi "lobbied against at least 28 public health bills intended to reduce soda consumption or improve nutrition." Soda, which is often high in sugar content, has been partly blamed for a rise in obesity in the U.S., and obesity is more prevalent in rural areas.

Coke spent more than $6 million annually on lobbying from 2011-14, while Pepsi spent $3 million per year. Of the 96 organizations that accepted money, 12 accepted money from both companies, 83 from Coke and one from only Pepsi. Among those companies was the American Diabetes Association and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

Lead author Daniel Aaron, a medical student at BU, said the companies "used relationships with health organizations to develop positive associations for their brands. The soda companies can neutralize potential legislative opposition by invoking reciprocity and financial dependence from national health organizations. Rather than supporting public health, organizations may become unwitting partners in a corporate marketing strategy that undermines public health."

Some of the companies that accepted money released statements defending their actions, Kerry Lauerman reports for The Washington Post. The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation said the “fundraisers in question were individual local initiatives” and not national sponsorships.

"The American Heart Association released a statement saying it "is leading efforts to reduce consumption of sugary drinks. To achieve our goals, we must engage a wide variety of food and beverage companies to be part of the solution. As clearly evidenced by our work, under no circumstances does such occasional funding have any influence on our science and the public policy positions we advocate for."

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