And so we come to the first food-related legal news of the year:
- “The Coca-Cola Company, with the help of the American Beverage Association, is deceiving consumers about the harms of consuming Coke and other sugar-sweetened beverages, according to a complaint filed in federal court in California. The suit contends that the beverage giant and its trade association are engaged in an unlawful campaign of deception to mislead and confuse the public about the science linking consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks to obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.”
- “The lawsuit, filed on behalf of the nonprofit Praxis Project, charges that Coca-Cola and the ABA are misleading consumers about the health risks posed by sugar drinks, and claiming that there is no science linking sugar-sweetened beverages to obesity and related diseases. Coke and the ABA executed a strategy of shifting focus away from sugar-sweetened beverages to a lack of exercise as a principal cause of the obesity epidemic, according to the suit. The campaign also led consumers to believe that all calories are the same, when science indicates that sugar drinks play a distinct role in the obesity epidemic.”
- “Praxis Project, the plaintiff, is a nonprofit that seeks to build healthier communities. Praxis is represented in court by Maia C. Kats, litigation director of the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest; Andrew Rainer of the Public Health Advocacy Institute; and Michael R. Reese of the law firm Reese LLP.”
- “The 40-page complaint alleges that Coke’s marketing plan was sophisticated and multi-faceted. The complaint alleges that Coke covertly funded and publicized biased scientific research, substantially orchestrated a drumbeat of deceptive ABA press releases on science and health, and ran false and misleading advertising campaigns.”
- “Coke also paid health professionals to promote sugar-sweetened beverages, including one dietitian who suggested that an eight-ounce soda could be a healthy snack, like “packs of almonds.”
DFPI ADDS: This particular recommendation was made in a column — marked as a “sponsored article” (AKA: advertisement) — about heart health, no less.
- “The suit seeks declarative and injunctive relief that would, among other things, stop Coke and the ABA from engaging in the unfair and deceptive marketing of sugar-sweetened drinks—including any direct or implied claim that the drinks do not promote obesity, type 2 diabetes, or cardiovascular disease, and any marketing directed to children. The complaint also asks the court to require Coke and ABA to disclose all corporate documentation and communications relating to the health impacts of sugar drinks and obesity, and to fund a major corrective education campaign to reduce the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages in order to counteract the effects of their wrongdoing.”