This past August, Anahad O’Connor of the New York Times reported on Coca-Cola’s habit of funding of health professionals and health organizations. The company’s latest multi-million dollar project, the innocuous-sounding Global Energy Balance Network, was discussed at length..
That article led to Coca-Cola “committing to transparency” and publishing an exhaustive list of health, wellness, and physical activity campaigns it has funded over the years as well as a partial list of health professionals the company worked with between 2010 and 2015 (we say ‘partial’ because some of these professionals refused to have their names published).
Today, the UK Times published its own front page story detailing the millions of pounds [British currency] the soda giant spent on health organizations (yes, the British Dietetic Association is name-checked) as well as over a dozen scientists and government health advisers.
The UK Times is behind a paywall, so the article is unavailable. However, here is a summary courtesy of The Telegraph:
- “The drinks company, a major sponsor of the Olympics, the Fifa World Cup and the Rugby World Cup, is said to have financial links to more than a dozen British scientists, including government health advisers, who cast doubt on link between sugary drinks and obesity. It spent £4.86 million setting up the European Hydration Institute (EHI) — a research foundation promoting hydration – which has recommended that people consume sports and soft drinks, according to The Times.”
- “Coke has provided financial support, sponsorship or research funding to organizations including UKActive, the British Nutrition Foundation, the University of Hull, Homerton University Hospital, the National Obesity Forum, the British Dietetic Association, Obesity Week 2013 and the UK Association for the Study of Obesity.”
- “Simon Capewell, a board member of the Faculty of Public Health, said: “Coca-Cola is trying to manipulate not just public opinion but policy and political decisions. Its tactics echo those used by the tobacco and alcohol industries, which have also tried to influence the scientific process by funding apparently independent groups. It’s a conflict of interest that flies in the face of good practice.”
Coca-Cola’s response? As it did in the United States last month, the company will soon publish a list of research partnerships in an effort to “be open about funding.” No mention of stopping that practice for the time being.