by Marion Nestle

Search results: Coca Cola

Jun 14 2021

Industry-funded study of the week: Coca-Cola

The study: Co-Occurrence and Clustering of Sedentary Behaviors, Diet, Sugar-Sweetened Beverages, and Alcohol Intake among Adolescents and Adults: The Latin American Nutrition and Health Study (ELANS)

Abstract: Poor diet, sedentary behaviors, sugar-sweetened beverages (SSB) and alcohol intake seem to co-exist in complex ways that are not well understood. The aim of this study was to provide an understanding of the extent to which unhealthy behaviors cluster in eight Latin America countries. A secondary aim was to identify socio-demographic characteristics associated with these behaviors by country…. Among 9218 individuals, the most prevalent behaviors were transportation and occupation–sedentary time, SSB and alcohol intake.

Conclusions:  EBRB, particularly excessive time spent on sedentary-activities and SSB intake, commonly co-occurred in a representative sample of LA adolescents and adults. While unhealthy behavior varied across LA countries, nearly half of sampled subjects in Argentina and Colombia presented at least two risk factor behaviors.

Recommendation: Public health policies and behavioral-change strategies should target SB domains (screen-time, occupational, and transportation), diet intake, and SSB and alcoholic intake in combination [my emphasis].

Funding: The ELANS data collection was originally supported by the scientific grant from the Coca-Cola Company (Atlanta, GA, USA) and by grants/supports from the ILSI Latin America branches (Argentina, Brazil, Sur-Andino, Nor-Andino, and Meso-America), Sabará Children’s Hospital, PENSI Institute, University of Costa Rica, Pontifical Catholic University from Chile, Pontifical Catholic University Javeriana, Colombia, Central University of Venezuela/Foundation Bengoa, University of San Francisco, Quito, and Nutritional Institute of Investigation, Peru. The funders had no role in study design, data collection, analysis, the decision to publish, or the preparation of this manuscript.

Conflicts of Interest: The authors declare no conflict of interest. The funders had no role in the design of the study; in the collection, analyses, or interpretation of data; in the writing of the manuscript, or in the decision to publish the results.

Comment: This is the first study I have seen funded by Coca-Cola since the scandal over its funding of  the Global Energy Balance Network (see my last post on it) and its announcement that it would no longer pay more than half the cost of a study (see policy statement).  This study is co-funded by ILSI (also industry) and universities (independent).  Coca-Cola is still funding lots of studies.  See here and here.

Why would Coca-Cola want to fund a study like this?  The answer lies in the recommendation.  My translation: Do not target sugar-sweetened beverages with tax or warning label policies alone.  If you want to improve unhealthy behavior, you have to target all of those behaviors—screen time, jobs, transportation, dietary intake, and alcohol—at the same time.

Jan 12 2021

Coca-Cola cuts 2200 jobs: profits vs. social values

Coca-Cola, according to an account in the Wall Street Journal, announced that it is cutting 2,200 jobs globally, including 1,200 in the U.S., as a result of the pandemic-induced closure of the places where its products are sold: restaurants, bars, movie theaters and sports stadiums.

The company expects to save $350 to $550 million annually as a result.

Let’s put these savings in context.  Coca-Cola brought in $37.27 billion in revenues in 2019.

For the company, the eliminated jobs mean “less decision making, less bureaucracy and ultimately less people.”

Corporations, as I have reported previously, have pledged to consider social values—like fairness to employees—in their day to day operations as much as they consider returns to stockholders.

If they are going to make such promises, they need to be held to them.

Hence: the global campaign for Corporate Accountability.

Jul 7 2020

Coca-Cola drops Odwalla

Coca-Cola, which bought Odwalla juices in 2001, is discontinuing the brand and getting rid of 300 jobs and 230 trucks.

Why?  People aren’t buying it: too much sugar, and too much competition.

This is the end of a long saga.  Odwalla started out selling unpasteurized juices and was doing fine until it got too big.

Against company policy, it used apples that had fallen on the ground to make apple juice.  Some were contaminated with E. coli O157:H7, which carried a shiga toxin that caused illnesses and deaths.  In 1998:

Odwalla, based in Half Moon Bay, Calif., pleaded guilty to 16 counts of unknowingly delivering ”adulterated food products for introduction into interstate commerce” in the October 1996 outbreak, in which a batch of its juice infected with the toxic bacteria E. coli O157:H7 sickened people in Colorado, California, Washington and Canada. Fourteen children developed a life-threatening disease that ravages kidneys.

Odwalla paid a $1.5 million fine and was put on probation.  Coca-Cola bought the company anyway.

Food safety lawyer Bill Marler, who represented some of the victims, some of whom have lifelong complications, says  Good riddance to bad rubbish.

During the course of the litigation, we uncovered that Odwalla had attempted to sell its juice in 1996 to the U.S. Army – no, not as a biological weapon – but to be sold in base grocery stores to our men and women service members and their families. The Army rejected the product – because it was not fit for military consumers.

His post includes the Army’s letter of rejection:  “We determined that your plant sanitation program does not adequatel assure product whoolesomeness for military consumers.”

It also includes some emails suggesting that Odwalla did not want to test for pathogens because they might find some:  “IF THE DATA is bad, what do we do about it.  Once you create a body of data, it is subpoenable.”

I wrote about the Odwalla events in my book, Safe Food.

The Odwalla outbreak provided convincing proof that unpasteurized and uncooked “natural” foods could contain the same pathogens as meat and poultry if they had the bad luck to come in contact with contaminated animal manure or meat.  For the industry, the lessons were mixed.  If food companies failed to reduce pathogens, their liability costs could be substantial–in money, time, legal penalties, and reputation—but these problems could be temporary and soon overcome (p. 99).

The end of a saga, indeed.

Mar 4 2020

Coca-Cola wants the 2020 dietary guidelines to say more about beverages

I am indebted to Margarita Raycheva, who writes for the highly informative newsletter, IEG Policy Agribusiness, for her recent article, which certainly got my attention: “Coca-Cola asks DGAC to develop detailed dietary recommendations for beverages” (this is probably behind a paywall).

Her article is about comments filed by Coca-Cola to the DGAC, the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee.  She did not provide a link to those comments, so I had to search for them.  This involved finding the DGAC comments page, searching for Coca-Cola, locating the company’s letter, and opening the pdf attachment.

The 12-page document reads like a highly sophisticated advertisement for Coca-Cola’s astounding number of beverage options, many of them low in sugar or sugar-free.

Over the last few years, Coca-Cola has been transforming to become a total beverage company that meets Americans’ fast-changing preferences across a wide array of beverage categories. We support the World Health Organization’s recommendation that people should limit added sugar to no more than 10% of their total daily calorie consumption1 and are rethinking existing recipes, package sizes and offerings to ensure we are helping consumers manage their daily intake of added sugar and other nutrients from our portfolio.  Today, we offer more than 800 drinks in the U.S. alone, ranging from soft drinks to juices, teas, coffee, dairy, sports drinks, water and more – more than 250 of which are low- or zero-sugar options. More than 40% of our sparkling beverage brands in the U.S. are now available in package sizes that are smaller than 8.5 ounces. We are increasing marketing support for low-sugar, no-sugar and unsweetened products…; we are introducing less sweet versions of classic soft drinks…; and we are accelerating our expansion into new beverage categories through the acquisition of brands….We are taking these actions because we recognize the critical role that we – and the entire industry – can play in advancing nutritional goals by using our scale for good.

Why do this?

• About 15% of energy comes from beverages
• Beverages, such as sweetened soft drinks, coffee and tea contribute more than 40% of daily added sugar intake
• Beverages, mainly milk and 100% juice, contribute over 40% of vitamin C and D intake and more than 20% intake of carbohydrates, calcium, potassium and magnesium
• Fruit intake (0.9 cup/day) is half of recommended levels (2 cups/day); 100% fruit juice contributes up to 24% of fruit intake in children, but decreases after adolescence
• Coffee and tea contribute up to 12% of potassium intake in adults
• Waters contribute up to 10% of calcium intake in adults

In other words, drink more (of our) beverages!

Coca-Cola’s proposals for how beverages can enhance diets:

  • Hydration
  • Nutrition and health
  • Enjoyment
  • Performance

What should the DGAC do?

By creating a framework that includes guidance for all types of beverages, the DGA can help drive Americans towards healthier versions of drinks they are typically consuming. Recommending limited
consumption or small shifts towards healthier beverages is more effective than simply discouraging the consumption of entire beverage categories.

The company’s proposals for how the DGAC can help it sell more beverages include sample statements like these examples [with my translations]:

  • Water should be the primary beverage choice [recommend our bottled water]
  • Milk plays an important role in development and health, and contributes essential nutrients to healthy eating patterns, including protein, calcium, vitamin D and potassium [recommend our milk drinks]
  • When fortified, plant-based beverages may provide nutrients and support consumer choice, but generally should not be considered a replacement for dairy [please don’t recommend almond, soy, or oat milks–we don’t make any of those drinks]
  • Juice contributes to the public’s consumption of essential nutrients, phytonutrient and fruit/vegetable intake [recommend our juice drinks]
  • Coffee and tea are sources of health-promoting phytonutrients and are associated with reduced risk of rtain non-communicable diseases (NCDs) [recommend them; we sell those too]
  • Replace sugar-sweetened beverages >40 kcal that do not contribute significantly to nutrition needs with these beverages to reduce calorie and sugar consumption [if you must recommend avoing sugary beverages, at least recommend replacement with everything else we sell]
  • Sports drinks can be beneficial for individuals who engage in prolonged vigorous physical activity, or those sweating for prolonged hours due to warm to hot temperatures [OK, they have sugar, but recommend them anyway]

I can’t wait to see what the DGAC does with this impressively written document.

Not that it matters, really.  Recall: The DGAC submits the research report, but the agencies—USDA takes the lead this time—write the actual guidelines.

Jul 23 2019

Coca-Cola wants the FDA to let it add vitamins to drinks

Thanks to Elaine Watson at FoodNavigator-USA for writing about Coca-Cola’s efforts to get the FDA to let it put vitamins in its drinks.  OK, its “healthier” drinks.

Historically, the FDA discouraged (putting it mildly) makers of candy and other junk foods from adding vitamins so they could be marketed as “healthy.”  This was known as the “jelly bean rule.”   Vitamins could not be added to jelly beans—or Coca-Cola.

It’s not really a formal rule, but here’s what the FDA says in 21CFR104.20:  ​

The Food and Drug Administration does not encourage indiscriminate addition of nutrients to foods, nor does it consider it appropriate to fortify fresh produce; meat, poultry, or fish products; sugars; or snack foods such as candies and carbonated beverages.

But what about the exceptions?

  • Gummy Bears: vitamins are be added to gummy bears, but these are typically sold as dietary supplements, not foods. They can do this because the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 authorized much looser rules for supplements.  Even though gummy bears are candy, the FDA isn’t going to fight this one.
  • Glaceau Vitamin Water:  Coca-Cola now owns this company. Some Vitamin Waters have as much sugar as a Coke.  They have Nutrition Facts labels and are marketed as foods, and look to me to be in violation of the jelly bean rule,.  The FDA hasn’t done anything about them, even though they are vitamin-enriched sugar water.  If you have any idea why not, please tell me.

For decades, Coca-Cola has tried to get the FDA to ease up on the jelly bean rule.  Now it is trying again.

Its argument?  The rule, by not allowing the addition of vitamins to sugary teas and coffees, stifles innovation.

Its assurance?  It won’t add vitamins to Coke, but will add them to its other, presumably “healthier” (meaning, I suppose, less sugary) beverages.

As I wrote earlier, candy makers are trying this trick too.

I wonder how long the FDA can hold out on this one.  I wish it luck.

Apr 22 2019

Industry-funded study of the week: Coca-Cola again

Here is a summary of another funded study with results the funder must love.

Joint associations between weekday and weekend physical activity or sedentary time and childhood obesity.  Li N, and 19 additional authors for the ISCOLE Research Group. International Journal of Obesity (2019) 43:691–700.

Conclusions: Lower levels of MVPA [moderate to vigorous physical activity] or higher levels of sedentary time on either weekdays or weekend were associated with increased odds of obesity in 9–11 year old children in 12 countries.

Funding: The International Study of Childhood Obesity, Lifestyle and the Environment (ISCOLE) was funded by The Coca-Cola Company… With the exception of requiring that the study be global in nature, the funder had no role in the design and conduct of the study; collection, management, analysis and interpretation of the data; and preparation, review or approval of the manuscript.

Comment: This is another paper from the ISCOLE study funded by Coca-Cola, that seems to be aimed at casting doubt on the idea that sugary beverages might promote weight gain.  Instead, these results suggest that physical activity is a more important factor.  Of course physical activity is important for health, but doesn’t expend nearly as many calories as is usually needed to compensate for soft drink intake.

I learned about this study from a Weighty Matters blog post by Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, who runs a weight management center in Ottawa.  In his view, the ISCOLE study ignores evidence that childhood obesity is a determinant of physical activity, “not the other way around.”

He also questions the “no influence” statement in the funding disclosure, on the basis of

emails between ISCOLE investigators and Coca-Cola that not surprisingly suggests that these relationships have the very real potential to influence the framing of results even if funders [are] not involved in study design.

As I discuss in Unsavory Truth, the influence of food-industry funders appears to occur at an unconscious level; investigators do not recognize the influence and typically deny it.

As I also discuss in that book, Coca-Cola generously funded the ISCOLE study some years ago.  It has since changed its policy on research funding.

Jan 15 2019

Coca-Cola’s political influence in China: documented evidence

The BMJ (the new name for what was formerly the British Medical Journal) has just published a report by Susan Greenhalgh, an anthropologist and China specialist at Harvard, of how Coca-Cola, working through the International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI), got the Chinese government to focus its anti-obesity efforts on promoting physical activity rather than dietary changes.

Professor Greenhalgh documented industry influence on Chinese health policy through review of published work as well as interviews with key players in this drama.

A more thorough report of her investigation with details of her interviews was released at the same time by the Journal of Public Health Policy: “Soda industry influence on obesity science and policy in China.”  This report comes with extensive supplemental information about her methods and interview details (these explain why training in anthropology is useful for this kind of work and provides information not otherwise available).

For readers familiar with Coca-Cola’s funding of the Global Energy Balance Network (GEBN), this is a familiar story.

I tell the GEBN story in a chapter in my recently released book, Unsavory Truth: How Food Companies Skew the Science of What We Eat.

One surprise in writing that book was how often ILSI turns up in its pages.  ILSI positions itself as an independent “nonprofit, worldwide organization whose mission is to provide science that improves human health and well-being and safeguards the environment,” but it was founded by Coca-Cola and is largely supported by food and beverage companies.  It works in many countries to promote food-industry interests.

Greenhalgh’s articles thoroughly expose how this organization accomplishes its objectives.  If you would like to know more about it, UCSF Food Industry Documents Library can help, as I learned about from this tweet.

Greenhalgh’s investigation has received extensive press coverage.

I was particularly interested in the account by Crossfit’s Derek Fields and Russ Greene, which provides further documentation of the close connections between Chinese health agencies, ILSI, and programs funded by Coca-Cola.

Oct 4 2018

Coca-Cola considering new drinks infused with—Cannabis!

Really?  Cannabis Canada reports that Coca-Cola is seriously considering going into the cannabis business.

Get high on Coke?  No such luck.

The sources said that Coca-Cola (KO.N), the world’s largest beverage company, is interested in developing beverages that are infused with cannabidiol, commonly referred to as CBD, the non-psychoactive chemical found in marijuana plants.

Non-psychoactive?  What’s the point?

Oh.  I get it.

Estimates vary, but the consumer CBD market is estimated to grow to US$2.1 billion by 2020, from $202 million in 2015, according to a recent report in the Hemp Business Journal…The company behind such drinks as Diet Coke, Sprite and Minute-Maid juice reported annual revenue of US$35.4 billion in 2017, down 15.5 per cent from the prior year, which has spurred the company to search for growth in international markets and new beverage concepts such as an alcoholic offering that’s only available in Japan.

Cannabis as the solution to Coca-Cola’s loss in sales?

My question: will there be low-sugar options?

While we are on the topic of Cannabis edibles:

California reports that its tests of nearly 11,000 marijuana products found nearly 20%—including cookies, candies, and other edibles—to have higher-than-allowed levels of pesticides, E. coli, and salmonella.

Caveat emptor.

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