Your New Anti-Obesity Advocate: Coca-Cola

Like a bad boyfriend, Coca-Cola is sending mixed messages again.

Yesterday, the soda giant announced plans to offer low- or no-calorie beverages in every market and ad front-of-the-package labeling. Additionally, it pledged to stick to responsible marketing practices—including no advertising to kids under 12-years of age, and to support physical activity.



But not everyone is embracing the New Coke image.

“The announcement is part of their effort to convince people that they’re committed to fighting obesity and they’re not,” Michael Jacobson, executive director for Center for Science in the Public Interest tells TakePart. “It’s smoke and mirrors. Their goal is to sell as much beverage as they can, and they’re not going to give up marketing the hell out of their high calorie sodas like Coca-Cola.”

Indeed, their commitment not to market to young children stretches back to 2007. And all major markets have long had low- and no-calories options. As for putting nutrition information on the front, Jacobson says they’ve already done that, and agrees it’s useful. But Coke’s commitment to supporting physical activity is less transparent, says Jacobson.

“Who can question the value of physical activity? It serves two purposes—to burnish their reputation and to distract people from the major cause of obesity, and that’s too many calories,” he says.

Coca-Cola did not return our call seeking comment.

The company’s new obesity focus has been under fire from critics since the beginning of the year, when Coca-Cola launched its controversial “Coming Together” television campaign.

It’s also repositioning itself in a market that has been fizzing-out in recent years—including the launch of new products like Fruitwater, which contains no fruit. So much for the company’s transparency promise.

According to Bloomberg, the company’s Chief Executive Officer Muhtar Kent did not set deadlines or targets for the new initiatives.

“Kent declined to discuss costs for the initiatives or say how they will affect spending for marketing and advertising,” writes Duane D. Stanford for Bloomberg.

Add it up and Coca-Cola’s new commitment to fight obesity doesn’t seem all that sincere, now does it?

Related stories on TakePart:

• Coke Overdose? Mom Drops After Drinking 10 Liters of Coca-Cola a Day

• Another Reason Why Soda Is a Downer

• Caramel Carcinogen? Your Soda Pop Could Kill You

Clare Leschin-Hoar covers seafood, sustainability and food politics. Her work has appeared in Scientific American, The Wall Street Journal, Grist, Eating Well and many more. @c_leschin |