Oct 17, 2016

    Coke, Pepsi fund health groups but fight anti-obesity bills too


    COCA-COLA and Pepsi, the two major United States soda giants, have given millions of dollars to health organisations while quietly fighting anti-obesity measures such as taxes on soft drinks, a new study shows.

    The Coca-Cola Co and Pepsi Co, from 2011 to last year, sponsored 96 national health organisations battling public health problems such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease, said the research published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

    During the same period, the two lobbied against 29 public health bills intended to reduce soda consumption or improve nutrition.

    "These companies lobbied against public health intervention in 97 per cent of cases, calling into question a sincere commitment to improving the public's health," said the study's authors Daniel Aaron and Michael Siegel of Boston University.

    "By accepting funding from these companies, health organisations are inadvertently participating in their marketing plans," they warned.

    Most of the recipients of the largesse were private organisations while some were part of the US federal government.

    The donations have become larger in recent years, alongside mounting public health campaigns linking soft drinks to the country's rising obesity levels - related to a growing prevalence of diabetes.

    Coca-Cola recently revealed it had spent more than US$120 million (S$167 million) since 2010, financing scientific studies, partnerships with groups fighting obesity and lobbying.

    According to The Centre for Responsive Politics - an independent, non-profit organisation - Pepsi, on average, has spent US$3 million a year on lobbying since 2011.

    About 35 per cent of American adults are obese, and 69 per cent are overweight, according to 2012 official data.

    Spending on treatments linked to obesity accounted for a fifth of the country's health care spending.

    For Keith-Thomas Ayoob, a dietitian and professor at Yeshiva University, the source of the funding is not as important as what is done with it.