Soda company sponsorships impede obesity epidemic cures
Thursday, December 15, 2016
The American Journal of Preventive Medicine recently published a troubling article regarding the sponsorship of national health organizations by two major soda companies. According to the article, many health organizations — including ones run by the federal government — accepted sponsorship money from the Coca-Cola Company, PepsiCo or both between 2011 and 2015.
Groups that reportedly accepted this sponsorship money include the National Institutes of Health, the American Red Cross and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. These organizations represent more than 100,000 credentialed practitioners who provide evidence-based nutrition advice to the American people.
In all, 96 national health organizations whose main focus is reducing the obesity epidemic received sponsorship funds. There were 63 public health groups, 19 medical organizations, seven health foundations, five government groups and two supply groups that benefited from the money. Pepsi sponsored 14 percent of the organizations, while Coke sponsored 99 percent.
The article is disconcerting because these health organizations are responsible for safeguarding public health. Study co-author Daniel G. Aaron, a medical student at Boston University School of Medicine, said, "I don’t think companies have a legal duty to protect people's health, but I think these groups do."
According to the study's authors, the organization Save the Children backed soda taxes. But after receiving $6 million from both Coke and Pepsi in 2009, Save the Children dropped its support of soda taxes.
Between 2011 and 2015, PepsiCo and Coke openly opposed 28 health-related bills and supported just one bill. Of the bills these companies opposed, 12 were for soda taxes and four were for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) regulations. Another bill concerned a limit on the portion sizes of soft drinks in New York City.
Both companies supported a bill to limit soda marketing in schools. However, diet soft drinks would still be allowed.
According to the study's authors, evidence suggests the link between poor health, weight gain and soda is well established. Between 1977 and 2007, soda consumption caused one-fifth of all weight gain in the United States.
The average American consumed a whopping 46 gallons of soda in 2009. This amount is equal to 294 20 oz. bottles, containing 4,704 teaspoons of sugar or 3,760 empty calories.
"I want people to know that a lot of important health organizations shaping health in the U.S. are receiving money from Coca-Cola and Pepsi," Aaron wrote. "That money, while it may seem beneficent, is more geared toward marketing. I want people to understand how problematic that is.
"Health organizations are becoming a marketing tool."
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