A Clutch of Coke Stories

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Following the activities of Coca-Cola can be a fascinating pastime. Even if the company’s antics don’t show up on one’s radar immediately, looking back on the corporation’s woefully misguided application of its expertise is just as much fun. That is, if “fun” is defined as learning about and marveling over tactics that range from ethically questionable to shockingly manipulative.

For instance, what is a sane person to make of these words from Julie Deardorff in the Chicago Tribune?

Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and the Hershey Center for Health and Nutrition are official sponsors of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the nation’s largest organization of food and nutrition professionals…Coca-Cola’s Sprite Zero is a national sponsor of the American Cancer Society’s Choose You campaign…For five years, Diet Coke has been a corporate partner in a heart disease awareness campaign, Heart Truth, run by the federal National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

Count on Zoë Harcombe to notice that Coca-Cola sponsors the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND; formerly known as ADA or American Dietetic Association). Her point is:

This is additionally worrying in America as dietitians have a legislated monopoly on giving dietary advice—check out their other sponsors in case you ever wondered where American official dietary advice comes from.

Concerning AND, there is a bit of controversy about the right of Registered Dieticians (RDs) to provide services to diabetic patients. Medical personnel with equivalent training but different job titles can earn money doing that, but RDs cannot. There is also disagreement, and rivalry, over who can legally be compensated for weight loss counseling. If behavioral therapists can be paid for that function, why not RDs? In other words, it’s a contentious mess.

The Juicy Part

Perhaps the most significant detail is that the law AND wants, HR2415, would mean that a whole lot of other health care workers, besides RDs, would have to be credentialed by AND, which would benefit financially. Last summer HR2415 was referred to the Subcommittee on Health, where it appears to have remained since then. The Alliance for Natural Health says:

It is difficult to believe that the AND is qualified to address our obesity crisis, considering their widely known conflicts of interest: AND receives funding from junk food companies like Coca-Cola, Hershey, Council, Mars, and PepsiCo—the very agents of the obesity epidemic. Furthermore, they conduct continuing education courses sponsored by Coke in which RDs are told that sugar, artificial colors, and nonnutritive sweeteners are perfectly fine for children, and concerns to the contrary are merely “urban myths”!

Sometimes the basic problem goes unrecognized, but here it is in a nutshell. Multitudes of reliable and sincere people will tell the world that by cutting sugar out of their lives, they reversed a serious and potentially fatal medical problem. If these extreme instances are difficult to credit, there is still traditional Western medicine, which acknowledges that many disease processes are exacerbated by sugar, and also by obesity, which sugar tends to promote.

One might ask, where does Coke get the nerve? For the corporation to put its spare change into something like “heart disease awareness” is, in a way, very insulting to the human race. If Coke really cares about heart disease and cancer, let it close its doors, fold its tent, and quietly steal away.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Critics pounce on Coke, Pepsi health initiatives,” ChicagoTribune.com, 02/04/12
Source: “Coca-Cola, Obesity and Conflict.” ZoeHarcombe.com, 01/22/13
Source: “Dietitian Organization Attempts to Cash In on Obesity.” Convio.net, 06/25/13
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