Coca-Cola’s Relationship With Health Is Truly Bizarre

A new study finds that while soda companies fund health groups, they also spend millions lobbying against health legislation.

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Soda companies give big bucks to groups that promote public health—while at the same time lobbying against laws that are trying to do the same.

That’s the takeaway from a study published today in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, Coca-Cola and PepsiCo donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to groups like the American Diabetes Association, American Heart Association, and Save the Children from 2011-2015. The two companies, represented by American Beverage Association, also spent millions lobbying to defeat legislation aimed at reducing soda consumption across the country. Coke gave the National Institutes of health nearly $2 million in recent years while also spending $6 million each year from 2011 to 2015 to fight efforts on implementing a soda tax in cities like Philadelphia.

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“The beverage industry is using corporate philanthropy to undermine public health measures,” Kelly Brownell, dean of the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University, told the New York Times.

This isn’t quite breaking news. Soda companies have been funding science of sugar for decades, but today’s study is the first to point out the method of fighting public health measures while also supporting organizations founded on the principle of improving the nation’s health.

For more on how corporate sponsorships can influence public health listen to our Bite podcast episode with Andy Bellatti, founder of Dieticians for Professional Integrity. Or check out Kiera Butler’s dive into Oakland’s deceptively named “grocery tax.”