New CDC Leadership Has Critics


When we left off describing this bit of history, Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald had just been appointed (as of July 6, 2017) as head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Previous to that, she served as Public Health Commissioner in the state of Georgia, to which the Coca-Cola Company had given $1 million for the SHAPE program, which encouraged exercise before and during the public school day.

At the press conference announcing this grant, Dr. Fitzgerald said:

Unless we address this obesity epidemic facing our children right now, they will likely suffer life-long consequences of obesity — diabetes, hypertension and heart disease.

So, obviously, Fitzgerald knows a thing or two — enough, anyway, not to fall for the industry’s baloney. Why, then, do Coke insiders approve of her and applaud her ascendency to the CDC leadership position?

To answer that requires delving back into the Georgia days, before the national election. Because it looked like Hillary Clinton could win the presidency, Coke executives were pressuring Clinton to reverse her pro-soda-tax position. They were also busy setting up the Global Energy Balance Network to spread the word that soft drinks cannot be blamed for the obesity epidemic, and if people get fat it’s their own fault for not exercising enough.

Knowing which side your bread is buttered on

While allocating the funds that Coke generously bestowed, Fitzgerald spoke on TV to the public, recommending that children be fed more fruits and vegetables. But she stopped short of warning parents and kids to limit their intake of junk food and sugar-sweetened beverages. Maybe she just forgot.

In another area of communication, however, Georgia’s Public Health Commissioner was a shining star. The essay she wrote for Coke still adorns their website.

It flings down a few grim statistics and mentions such harbingers of doom as too much screen time. Following the party line, it scolds everybody for lack of exercise, and doesn’t say a word about cutting back on soda.

A scary paragraph about diabetes and its sequelae begins with, “And what are the long-term effects of not moving?” To the surprise of medical professionals everywhere, it appears that the sole cause of endocrine imbalance and insulin resistance is… lack of exercise.

The new job

At the CDC, Fitzgerald took over a government agency which Coca-Cola executives have been fairly open about their attempts to influence. Coke would also love to wield some power over the World Health Organization, which insists on being just a big old party-pooper. Apparently, Coke has done considerable behind-the-scenes work to hasten the day when the corporation has enough clout to issue orders, rather than merely express wishes.

As Fitzgerald acclimated to her new office, Rob Waters noted for how she had been “silent about reducing soda consumption.” The excuse for that omission was that the SHAPE program’s mission was to “concentrate on what you should eat” (as opposed to what you should not eat — or drink — which could lead the the conversation into forbidden territory.)

Waters went on to do some in-depth reporting based on public records the CDC had been persuaded to release to the organization U.S. Right to Know, which demonstrated the bureaucracy’s already “cozy relationship” with Coca-Cola.

(To be continued…)

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Trump’s new CDC chief championed partnership with Coca-Cola to Solve Childhood Obesity,”, 07/08/17
Source: “Trump’s Pick To Head CDC Partnered With Coke, Boosting Agency’s Longstanding Ties To Soda Giant,”, 07/10/17
Photo credit: cielodlp via Visualhunt/CC BY

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About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
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Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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