by Marion Nestle

Currently browsing posts about: Coca-Cola

May 9 2016

Coca-Cola items: Warren Buffett’s gaffe. Share a Coke and a Song.

Warren Buffett, the billionnaire who owns 9.3% of Coca-Cola stock, understandably defends its products.  When challenged by shareholders in his company, Berkshire Hathaway, Buffett said:

He also said he drank 700 calories worth of Coca-Cola each day (translation: 44 teaspoons of sugars).  As Michael Jacobson of the Center for Science in the Public Interest put it, this much sugar is not in the interest of anyone’s health.

Maybe the Wizard of Omaha can maintain good health while consuming more than three times the added sugars recommended by the nation’s leading health officials, but it’s a sure-fire prescription for increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, obesity and tooth decay for the rest of his fellow citizens…the American Heart Association whose scientific panels have reviewed the evidence as well call for an even more conservative daily limit of added sugars: six teaspoons for women and nine for men.

Business analysts were just as dismayed.   said in the Financial Times that Buffett made five mistakes in laughing off the CocaCola question (my paraphrases):

  • Shareholders asked a serious question that deserved a serious answer.
  • Not everyone knows how many calories are in sodas.
  • Poor people are at greater risk from the hazards of sugary drinks.
  • Politicians know that sugary drinks are a problem.
  • Coca-Cola knows sugary drinks are a problem.

In the meantime, the Berkeley Media Studies Group has produced its take on Coke’s new “Share a Coke and a Song” campaign:

When health advocates and the business community think Coca-Cola is in trouble, it is.

Can this campaign survive satire?

This company’s responses are always interesting to follow.  Buffett is a big investor.  But it is increasingly having to respond to health concerns.

I will be watching for the next chapter in this saga.

Apr 1 2016

Weekend reading: CSPI’s Carbonating the World

Center for Science in the Public Interest has produced a new report:

It’s a lavishly illustrated and well documented investigative report into soda company marketing in developing countries.

Here’s an example of the documentation, enough to explain why Coke and Pepsi are pouring billions of dollars into bottling plants and marketing in India:

 

Capture

For anyone interested in the nutrition transition from undernutrition to overnutrition in developing countries, this report is a must read.  Actually, it’s a must read for anyone who cares about diet and health.  If you do nothing else, look at the marketing illustrations from Nepal, Indonesia, or Nigeria.  They tell the story on their own.

Mar 21 2016

The UK soda tax: a tipping point?

Wonder of wonders, the UK’s Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, has put a soda tax into his new budget initiative (see BBC account, the video and text of Osborne’s speech, and the Treasury department’s fact sheet on the soda tax).

Here’s how the tax is supposed to work:

Shocking: Many of Britain's most sugary drinks contain more that the daily recommended amount for one person

Osborne says the tax will bring in £520 million ($732 million) in the first year, and he intends to use it to fund more sports in schools.

But it goes into effect in April 2018.  This is to give the industry time to reformulate products with less sugar.  But—the delay also gives the industry ample time to block the tax.

Public Health England supports the tax (see statement).

But the soda industry wasted no time reacting to this bad news.

  • Coke, Pepsi, and other soft drink companies strongly objected.
  • The immediate result: a fall in their stock prices.
  • The immediate reaction: Sue the government.  On what grounds?  Discrimination.  The tax does not affect sugary juices, milkshakes, or processed foods.

New tax: Soft drinks with more than 5g of sugar will be taxed at 6p per can or carton and drinks with more than 8g of sugar will be taxed at 8pm, which if passed on to the consumer means a can of Old Jamaica ginger beer will go up from 58p to 66p

The makers of artificial and alternative sweeteners think this will be a win for them.

Will the tax help reduce obesity?  On its own, that would be asking a lot.

Jamie Oliver, the British chef who favors the tax, says of course it won’t work on its own.  It needs to be accompanied by six additional actions (food labels, better school food, curbs on marketing to kids, etc.).

Why are soda companies so worried about this?  It could be catching.

Will the UK tax stick?  Watch Big Soda pull out every stop on this one.

And think about what they are doing to fight soda taxes when you read or hear that soda companies want to be part of the solution to obesity.

Mar 12 2016

“Superannuated Chardonnay Socialist!” Moi?

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Sarah Whyte of ABC 7:30 interviewed me and others for a 6-minute segment on Coca-Cola’s funding of health researchers.  Here’s an excerpt from the transcript:

TIM OLDS, UNI. OF SOUTH AUSTRALIA: I’ve got about $26 million worth of funding, and of that, probably less than $2 million would have come from industry sources. Most of it comes from government schemes such as the NHMRC and the ARC, a lot from government departments.

SARAH WHYTE: So when you take that funding, do you get other academics saying you shouldn’t be taking funding from that?

TIM OLDS: We get a lot of academics saying that.

SARAH WHYTE: He disagrees with people like Marion Nestle who says his work is compromised.

TIM OLDS: I think frankly this is an example old-style, superannuated chardonnay socialism.

Oh.

Here’s what he’s referring to (the dates are Australian).

February 17  Marcus Strom, a business reporter with the Sydney Morning Herald, invites me to lunch to discuss issues related to Soda Politics.

February 24  Strom publishes an article based on our conversation: “What Coca-Cola isn’t telling you about its health funding in Australia” (the video tells the story).

February 26  The Sydney Morning Herald publishes Strom’s account of our lunch interview.

March 1  I give a lecture on Soda Politics at the University of Sydney.

March 3  In response to my remarks, the director of Coca-Cola Amatil makes this statement: “one can [of soda] a week not unhealthy.”

March 10  Coca-Cola publishes a preliminary version of its “commitment to transparency,” listing some of the community organizations it funds.

March 10  Strom writes an analysis of the transparency list—$1.7 million in support of research over five years—noting several key omissions.

March 10  ABC 7:30 runs its video (and see transcript).

March 10  A blogger publishes a list of individuals funded by Coca-Cola during that period.

March 11  Coca-Cola releases the complete version of its transparency list, including the names of individuals.

March 11  I receive an e-mail message from a Coca-Cola official stating the company’s commitment to transparency.

We are continuing to progress on our commitment to enhance our transparency in markets across the globe. Today, in Australia and New Zealand, we launched country-specific websites listing our health and well-being partnerships, research and health professionals and scientific experts that have received financial support from Coca-Cola from 2010-2015. In December 2015, we launched sites with this information in Great BritainGermanyFranceIreland, DenmarkFinlandBelgiumSwedenNorway and the Netherlands.  We will publish the six-month update for the U.S. later this month.

March 11  Strom attempts to interview the 14 health experts on Coca-Cola’s list; most don’t return his calls.

Coca-Cola deserves much praise for following through on its transparency commitments.  The aftermath continues.

Additions: New Zealand transparency and more from Australia

March 3: Coke: One can a week ‘not unhealthy’

March 11:  Coca-Cola cash went to NZ health organisations and research

March 11: Coca-Cola funds research in NZ, NZ Herald

March 13: Three Kiwi health professionals took money from Coca-Cola

March 14:  Gary Moorhead, past CEO of Sports Medicine Australia argues that shaming researchers does no good

March 15: NZ Dominion Post editorial says dentists should not take money from Coca-Cola

March 16: The Press, New Zealand, editorial on whether Coca-Cola should be paying scientists

Feb 1 2016

A food politics souvenir of Auckland

On my way to Australia, I stopped in Auckland.

The Auckland train station is clean and beautiful—and a perfect site for advertising Coca-Cola.IMG_20160118_1439519

A short ferry ride lands you in vineyards.

IMG_20160117_1240520

Food thoughts to ponder early on a Monday morning in Sydney (Sunday afternoon in New York).

Dec 23 2015

Five more industry-sponsored studies with results favorable to the sponsor. The score since mid-March: 95:9

Systematic Review of Pears and Health. Holly Reiland, BS Joanne Slavin, PhD, RD.  Nutrition Today November/December 2015 – Volume 50 – Issue 6 – p 301–305.  doi: 10.1097/NT.0000000000000112.  

  • Conclusions: Animal studies with pears suggest that pears may regulate alcohol metabolism, protect against ulcers, and lower plasma lipids. Human feeding studies with pears have not been conducted. In epidemiological studies, pears are combined with all fresh fruits or with apples, because they are most similar in composition. The high content of dietary fiber in pears and their effects on gut health set pears apart from other fruit and deserves study.
  • Funding: The authors received a grant from USA Pears in the past. The authors provided their own funding to allow this article to publish as Open Access.
  • Comment: Pears are a great fruit but the marketing purpose of this study is evident from this press release from the Pear Bureau Northwest: “While the body of evidence connecting pear intake and health outcomes is still limited, USA Pears has been contributing to research efforts by commissioning independent studies to learn and affirm the heath attributes of pears. Visit www.usapears.org for additional pear research, nutrition resources and recipes.”

Whole Grain Intakes in the Diets Of Malaysian Children and Adolescents – Findings from the MyBreakfast Study.  Norimah AK , H. C. Koo, Hamid Jan JM, Mohd Nasir MT, S. Y. Tan, Mahendran Appukutty, Nurliyana AR, Frank Thielecke, Sinead Hopkins, M. K. Ong, C. Ning, E. S. Tee.  PLoS ONE 10(10): e0138247. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0138247

  • Conclusion: Whole grain is consumed by only a minority of Malaysian children and adolescents and even among consumers, intakes are well below recommendations. Efforts are needed to firstly understand the barriers to whole grain consumption among Malaysian children in order to design effective health promotion initiatives to promote an increase in whole grain consumption.
  • Funding: The Nutrition Society of Malaysia received an unrestricted research grant from Cereal Partners Worldwide, Switzerland and Nestleé R&D Center, Singapore. This financial support was provided in the form of salaries for authors but the funders did not have any additional role in the study design, data collection and analysis or decision to publish. Frank Thielecke was an employee of Cereal Partners Worldwide at the time this study was conducted. He now works for Nestec SA. Sinead Hopkins is employed by Cereal Partners Worldwide (CPW), Switzerland and Moi Kim Ong and Celila Ning are employed by Nestleé R&D Center, Singapore….Nestlé and Cereal Partners Worldwide have a commercial interest in breakfast cereals.
  • Comment: I learned about this study from a comment on Retraction Watch, which reported that PLoS One had filed a correction to the funding section.  The correction says that the salaries were for research assistants, not authors.

Walnuts Consumed by Healthy Adults Provide Less Available Energy than Predicted by the Atwater Factors.  David J Baer*, Sarah K Gebauer, and Janet A Novotny. J Nutrition First published November 18, 2015, doi: 10.3945/​jn.115.217372.

  • Conclusion: Consistent with other tree nuts, Atwater factors overestimate the metabolizable energy value of walnuts. These results could help explain the observations that consumers of nuts do not gain excessive weight and could improve the accuracy of food labeling.
  • Funding: This research was funded by the USDA and the California Walnut Commission… DJ Baer was funded by the USDA and the California Walnut Commission.

Cardiorespiratory Fitness, Body Fatness, and Submaximal Systolic Blood Pressure Among Young Adult WomenPrasad Vivek Kumar, Drenowatz Clemens, Hand Gregory A., Lavie Carl J., Sui Xuemei, Demello Madison, and Blair Steven N.  Journal of Women’s Health, 2015 ahead of print. doi:10.1089/jwh.2015.5307.

  • Conclusion: CRF, BF%, and BMI seem to have critical roles in determining SSBP with CRF and BF% being more potent at lower intensity exercise, whereas BMI was more strongly associated at higher intensity exercise.
  • Funding for this project was provided through an unrestricted grant from The Coca-Cola Company. The sponsor played no role in the study design, data collection, analysis, and interpretation, or preparation and submission of this article. The authors thank the Energy Balance staff and study participants for their contributions. No competing financial interests exist. 
  • Comment: This is one of the papers produced by participants in the now defunct Global Energy Balance Network formerly sponsored by Coca-Cola.

Does low-energy sweetener consumption affect energy intake and body weight? A systematic review, including metaanalyses, of the evidence from human and animal studies. PJ Rogers, PS Hogenkamp, C de Graaf , S Higgs , A Lluch , AR Ness , C Penfold , R Perry , P Putz , MR Yeomans and DJ Mela.  International Journal of Obesity advance online publication, 10 November 2015; doi:10.1038/ijo.2015.177

  • Conclusion¨The preponderance of evidence from all human randomized controlled trials indicates that LES [low-energy sweeteners] do not increase EI [energy intake] or BW [body weight], whether compared with caloric or non-caloric (for example, water) control conditions. Overall, the balance of evidence indicates that use of LES in place of sugar, in children and adults, leads to reduced EI and BW, and possibly also when compared with water.
  • Conflict: This work was conducted by an expert group of the European branch of the International Life Science Institute (ILSI Europe). The expert group received funding from the ILSI Europe Eating Behaviour and Energy Balance Task Force. Industry members of this task force are listed on the ILSI Europe website at www.ilsi.eu.
  • Comment: ILSI is funded by food companies.
Dec 22 2015

Coca-Cola reveals who it funds in England—organizations, researchers, other individuals

Last Friday, Coca-Cola UK joined its US counterpart in revealing the names of the organizations, researchers, and individuals it funds and the amounts it pays for these services.

As Jon Woods, General Manager of Coca-Cola Great Britain and Ireland, explains:

Earlier this year, my colleagues in the US published a list of the health and wellbeing partnerships, research and individuals funded there, dating back to 2010. In October, I committed to do the same and today we have published the details of what we have funded in Great Britain.  I believe this is the right thing to do…The total amount of funding we have provided in GB since 2010 is £9,328,095.

Like the US list, which has been analyzed extensively by Ninjas for Health, this one is interesting to read.

Here is a small sample from the list of organizations:

  • Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council — £20,000
  • British Dietetic Association — £5,600
  • British Feeding & Drinking Group Annual Meeting — £1,200
  • British Nutrition Foundation — £33,000

A sample from the list of scientists and other individuals (not otherwise identified, alas):

  • Fiona Hunter
  • Prof. Ken Fox
  • Lynne Garton
  • Dr. Geoffrey Livesey
  • Dr. Sigrid Gibson
  • Dr. David Haslam
  • Prof. Marion Hetherington
  • Penny Hunking
  • Angie Jefferson
  • Prof. Ian Macdonald

I’m sure British public health advocates will have fun looking up what these people have said about sugary drinks and obesity.

The Times of London explained who some of them are:

The advisers include Stuart Biddle, of Loughborough University, who was chairman of a health department group on obesity in 2010; Alan Boobis, a director at Public Health England, who stopped receiving funding in 2013; Ken Fox, who advised the government on obesity in 2009; and Carrie Ruxton, now on the board of Food Standards Scotland. In 2010 Dr Ruxton co-wrote a study sponsored by the UK Sugar Bureau, an industry group, that found no proven association between sugar intake and obesity.

According to Der Spiegel, Coca-Cola plans to reveal everyone it sponsors in Europe.  All of this is further fallout from August’s New York Times’ revelations of Coca-Cola sponsorship of the now defunct Global Energy Balance Network.

More to come, no doubt.  Stay tuned.

Dec 3 2015

The soda industry is having a very bad month: a roundup of events

It’s been a tough month for the soda industry.

  • Yesterday, members of Mexico’s Nutritional Health Alliance held a press conference to complain that a Coca-Cola Christmas television ad violated the human rights of the indigenous people of the Mixe community of Totontepec.

    The ad, released by Coca-Cola in late November on social media as part of its “OpenYourHeart” Christmas advertising campaign shows young people who are outsiders to the Mixe indigenous community arriving to build a Christmas tree of wood and Coca-Cola bottle caps, distributing Coca-Cola to young people from the community and transmitting the message “Stay United” in the Mixe language.

    Coca-Cola removed the ad from its social media channels, but you can watch a version produced by the Alliance in which Mixe youth comment on the ad. The Alliance also has produced a translation.

Al Jazeera produced a video analysis.

  • On November 6, the New York Times reported that the University of Colorado was returning a million dollar grant that had paid for the Global Energy Balance Network (GEBN), the group funded by Coca-Cola that said you didn’t need to worry about what you ate as long as you were active.
  • On November 24, AP reporter Candice Choi published e-mails between the U. Colorado scientist behind the GEBN.  These revealed that “Coke helped pick the group’s leaders, edited its mission statement and suggested articles and videos for its website.”
  • Coca-Cola’s chief scientist, Rhona Applebaum, immediately resigned.
  • On November 29, Helena Bottemiller Evich wrote in Politico how health advocates are running endless campaigns for so taxes, and that these will soon be coming to a polling place near you.
  • On November 30, the UK’s Commons Health Committee called for a 20% tax on sugar-sweetened beverages.
  • On December 1, the GEBN closed shop as a result of loss of funding.
  • This week’s issue of The Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology contains an opinion piece by U North Carolina professor Barry Popkin and Corinna Hawkes of City University London arguing that the world is eating too much sugar and that changes in policy are needed to encourage reduced consumption of sugary drinks.  According to Politico Morning Agriculture, the American Beverage Association (ABA) is most unhappy about the piece.  It claims that the prevalence of obesity and diabetes are rising but soft drink sales are falling in the U.S., saying “This proves that beverages are not driving these epidemics.”  [Comment: as I discuss in Soda Politics, only half the population drinks sugary beverages meaning that those who do drink them drink a lot.  Also, diabetes rates are falling in the U.S.]
  • The ABA won a battle in San Francisco, but is surely losing the public relations war.  It sued the city over a Board of Supervisors ban on ads for sugary drinks on city property and requiring warning labels on all billboards and other surfaces within the city.  The ABA argued that both laws violate the First Amendment.  You might think this argument would get thrown out of court immediately, but you would be wrong, as the Supreme Court is becoming more hostile to such laws.  If you want to hear how the Board of Supervisors reacted to this, click here for the meeting transcript. (thanks to Politico Morning Agriculture for this item too and to Michele Simon for clarifying the legal issues).

I keep getting asked “why pick on sodas?”  The answer: they are an easy target, low-hanging fruit in public health terms.  They contain sugars but nothing else of redeeming nutritional value, are strongly associated with diets that raise the risk of obesity and its consequences, and are heavily marketed as what you need to be happy.  The industry is fighting hard and on many fronts to maintain sales.  Advocates are keeping its lawyers and lobbyists busy.

All this was just in the last month.  Expect more to come.

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