Coca-Cola and the CDC


Childhood Obesity News has been following the developments around the appointment of Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald as director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, through the reportage done for by health and science writer Rob Waters. Many observers were uncomfortable with the mutual admiration society that had formed between the CDC and numerous corporate entities.

Waters wrote:

These connections can be seen in emails that circulated between Coke executives, CDC officials and a network of people from universities and industry-backed organizations funded by companies including Coke, Nestle, Mars Inc. and Mondelez, formerly known as Kraft. The emails […] are chatty, sometimes plaintive, often affectionate and occasionally angry and urgent.

Waters mentions the scandal over the inappropriately close relationship between an industry lobbyist and Dr. Barbara Bowman, another former Cokester who became a CDC official, and our readers are familiar with this story. U.S. Right to Know, a nonprofit organization dedicated to transparency and accountability in the food industry, published information about Bowman’s chummy relationship with lobbyist Alex Malaspina. It could have been sheer coincidence, but a couple of days later she resigned.

In 2015 this same Big Soda shill asked a number of scientists already indebted to Coke to help him figure out how to push back against encroaching hostile experts. In Malaspina’s view, those rival influencers had a lot of nerve, urging the government to warn Americans against sugar, salt and meat.

Coincidentally, Malaspina was the founding president of Coke’s front group, the International Life Sciences Institute, described by critics as having “a subterranean layer of corporate PR and science-corruption executives which provides their funders with global lobbying services.” One of the CDC’s senior advisors was shown to have also been advising ILSI. The fact that they had financed his research did not look too good either.

At the same time, many academic researchers and other prominent figures in the health field questioned the very basis of the controversy. One of these was pediatric endocrinologist and sugar expert Dr. Robert Lustig, who asked:

Why is Coke talking to CDC at all? Why is there any line of communication? The contact is completely inappropriate and they’re obviously trying to use it to exert influence on a government agency.

Considered en masse, the captured emails drew a comprehensive picture of Malaspina’s reach and grasp. He had plenty of Coke cash to work with, and used it to create what Waters calls a global network that included a number of other scientists who had received Coke money.

He also put together the International Food Information Council, another nonprofit, sponsored by Coke, the American Beverage Association and others. Its function is straight-up propaganda, also known as “science-based information” which “helps journalists and bloggers writing about health, nutrition and food safety” and yes, they actually make this claim with a straight face.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Trump’s Pick To Head CDC Partnered With Coke, Boosting Agency’s Longstanding Ties To Soda Giant,”, 07/10/17
Source: “International Life Sciences Institute,”, undated
Photo credit: sarahr1127 via Visualhunt/CC BY-ND

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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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