Brace yourselves. “Coca-Cola may have a new ally at the CDC,” The Intercept reports.
* “The new chief of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which monitors significant public health concerns, including the impact of sugary beverages on obesity and heart disease, will be led by Brenda Fitzgerald, a Georgia physician whose signature childhood obesity project was underwritten by Coca-Cola.”
* “During her tenure as Georgia’s public health watchdog, in a state that has one of the highest obesity rates in the nation, Fitzgerald and Gov. Nathan Deal launched SHAPE, a statewide effort to address childhood obesity through “physical activity before class, physical activity during class, and more structured recess.”
* “Muhtar Kent, the chief executive and chairman of Coca-Cola Company, appeared with the governor and Fitzgerald to promote the initiative, along with a pledge of $1 million from his company to fund it. Clyde Tuggle, a Coca-Cola executive responsible for the company’s lobbying strategy, was initially appointed to the board overseeing the state anti-obesity strategy, including Fitzgerald’s SHAPE initiative.”
* “More exercise, of course, is a good thing, but the Georgia SHAPE program notably eschewed another well-known step toward healthier living: curbing sugary beverage consumption. Touting Coca-Cola’s support of her program on local news station WXIA-TV, Fitzgerald explained her approach. “We’re going to concentrate on what you should eat,” she said, before simply suggesting that children eat more fruits and vegetables. Fitzgerald did not recommend the approach adopted by public officials around the country, namely that children should cut sweetened soda and junk foods from their diet.”
* “The contrast was laid out explicitly in a presentation in 2015. In explaining SHAPE, officials from the Georgia Department of Public Health overtly contrasted the “Georgia vs. California” model on the obesity epidemic. Cities in California, the slide noted, passed the first tax on sugary drinks. Georgia, on the other hand, proposed the largest exemption to new federal rules curbing the sale of junk food in public schools.”
* “Shortly after news of Fitzgerald’s appointment to lead the CDC, Rhona Applebaum, Coca-Cola’s former chief health and science officer, celebrated the pick on social media, tweeting: “An excellent choice!”