by Marion Nestle

Search results: Coca Cola

Dec 26 2007

Coca-Cola’s new health drink?

Coca-Cola’s Christmas gift was a full-page, full-color ad in the December 25 New York Times announcing Minute Maid’s new “enhanced juice.” The label says “Omega-3/DHA HELP NOURISH YOUR BRAIN.” “POMEGRANATE, BLUEBERRY: FLAVORED BLEND OF 5 JUICES.” Curious to see what was in it, I checked the online label information. Surprise! The first two ingredients are Apple and Grape juices from concentrate. Pomegranate comes in at #3. #4 is mixed fruit and vegetable juices, #5 is blueberry juice, #6 is raspberry juice–all from concentrate. Then come #7 gum acacia and #8 DHA algal oil. Others ingredients follow, but never mind. Of course this drink will nourish your brain. It contains an ounce of sugars per 8-ounce serving (and the bottle contains 7 servings)!

Oct 17 2007

More on health claims: coca-cola

While we are on the subject of health claims, can those be the reasons why Coca-Cola is off to China to look for medicinals that can be added to its drinks? The entire point of putting “healthy” ingredients into foods is to be able to make health claims for them. These “functional foods,” as I keep saying, are not really about health. They are about marketing.

Mar 11 2016

Should the East River Pepsi-Cola sign be landmarked?

An editor at the New York Times invited me to write an op-ed on the proposed landmarking of the East River Pepsi-Cola sign, but then said:

We’re not going to use this. People really love that Pepsi sign so much that they don’t want to hear arguments against it.

So I offered it to the Daily News.  I’ve written for it before.  Its editors are highly professional and a pleasure to work with.  And it goes to an audience to which I do not usually have access.   See what you think.

The Long Island City Pepsi-Cola sign: Hazard, not landmark

NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Thursday, March 10, 2016, 5:00 AM
Looks pretty. Tastes sweet. Has ugly side effects.

Looks pretty. Tastes sweet. Has ugly side effects.

I did not know whether to laugh or cry when I read that the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission had deemed the Pepsi-Cola sign in Long Island City, Queens, so worthy of permanent preservation that it was considering it for landmark status.

Granted, the neon monument has been part of the East River landscape for the past 80 years. And yes, there is precedent for landmarking a sign rather than a building. Pine Bluff, Ark., chose to landmark a McDonald’s sign, and Cambridge, Mass., preserved a Shell Oil sign.

But the fact is that the Pepsi-Cola sign is a highly visible expression of soda industry marketing. The sign advertises a sugar-sweetened beverage — precisely what the city Health Department has, with good reason, been working hard to discourage New Yorkers from consuming in large quantities.

For the past few years, subway poster campaigns have featured the astonishing amounts of sugar contained in carbonated sodas — close to a teaspoon per ounce. They have also illustrated how this excessive sugar turns to fat in the body, how sugary beverages raise the risk for type 2 diabetes, and how much walking it takes to work off the calories in a single 20-ounce drink — a trek from Union Square to Brooklyn.

And let’s not forget former Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s ultimately unsuccessful though valiant attempt to set a cap of 16 ounces on sugary beverages sold in places under city jurisdiction.

That particular tactic was hugely controversial. But nobody can seriously dispute that sugary drinks contribute to obesity and its consequences.

Pepsi may be the underdog — Americans drink more Coke — but it is a very large runnerup in the sugary drink category. Its revenues in 2015 amounted to $63 billion worldwide.

Pepsi is Big Soda incarnate. It works hard to maintain that position, spending more than $200 million a year advertising Pepsi-Cola alone. It is also Big Food. Altogether it spends about $2 billion a year on worldwide marketing for all of its products, including Frito-Lay snack foods and other brands.

To generate sales, Pepsi relentlessly targets its marketing to teenagers and young adults and, as part of that approach, generously pays sports and music figures to endorse its products.

We’ve all seen the Super Bowl ads. We know about the reported $50 million deal with Beyoncé. And like Coca-Cola, although not quite to the same extent, PepsiCo funds health organizations such as the American heart and cancer associations, and contributes to health programs at universities such as Yale. All of this can buy loyalty from health professionals, and also silence from them about the role of soft drinks in health.

Soda advertising is so much a part of the American landscape that most of us don’t even notice it anymore. It is just there. And that’s how the company intends it. As an industry executive once told me, effective advertising is supposed to slip below the radar of critical thinking.

I’m guessing that’s what’s happening with the Pepsi-Cola sign. Its significance as advertising for a sugary drink — one best consumed infrequently and in small amounts — has become unnoticeable. To the landmarks folks, therefore, this is just a quaint piece of history — not an active, pulsating sign promoting something dangerous to human health.

But landmarking the Pepsi sign, which is visible to millions of New Yorkers and tourists every single day, would engage New Yorkers as formal partners in marketing sugary drinks.

I can’t help but remember the Camel cigarette sign in Times Square, for years blowing smoke rings. Would today’s Landmarks Preservation Commission want that billboard preserved for eternity? Or would it blush at the thought of promoting and sustaining an icon of corporate marketing, and of an unhealthful product at that?

Tags:
May 28 2009

The latest from Red Bull: Cocaine!

According to Time online, advertising for the sports drink Red Bull Cola made officials in Germany so suspicious that they did a little testing.  Ach du himmel!  Traces of cocaine.  No wonder guys like it so much.

Here is the ingredient list: Water, Sugar, Carbon Dioxide, Caramel Color, Natural Flavors from Plant Extracts (Galangal, Vanilla, Mustard Seed, Lime, Kola Nut, Cacao, Licorice, Cinnamon, Lemon, Ginger, Cocoa Leaf, Orange, Corn Mint, Pine, Cardamom, Mace, Clove), Lemon Juice Concentrate, Caffeine from Coffee Beans.  With these, you get 130 calories, virtually all from sugar, and some unstated amount of caffeine – along with some other no longer quite so secret ingredients, apparently.

Yum.

Update June 5: European regulatory authorities think this is a non-issue and plan no action.

Tags:
Nov 4 2021

What’s up with digital marketing? Plenty.

Digital marketing, especially when targeted to children, is a rising source of concern and for well-documented reasons.

Two reports provide the data.  The big issue?  Digital marketing promotes unhealthful eating.

I.  From the World Health Organization’s Regional Office in Europe: Digital Food Environments Factsheet

Digital technologies are becoming integrated to varying degrees into everyday life across the 53 countries of the WHO European Region. The increase in digital technologies can increase the convenience of food and prepared meals. A recent unrepresentative survey of 10 European countries found that every fifth meal was consumed outside of the home, with 80% from commercial outlets. The influence of digitalization on dietary behaviour, however, is not well understood, raising questions about its influence on the health and nutrition of adults and children.

II.  From the U.S. Center for Digital Democracy comes Big Food, Big Tech, and the Global Childhood Obesity Pandemic

The full report

Some of the largest food and beverage corporations—including Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, and Pepsi—have, in effect, transformed themselves into Big Data businesses, acquiring specialist firms, establishing large in-house operations, and hiring teams of data scientists and technology experts to direct these systems. With these enhanced capabilities, they can more effectively engage in ad targeting—whether on the leading platforms or through their own mobile apps.

The Executive Summary

A growing body of academic research has documented the increasing presence of unhealthy food promotion in digital media, as well as clear patterns of youth engagement with major brands, and influences on health behaviors.

The Press Release

Tech platforms especially popular with young people—including Facebook’s Instagram, Amazon’s Twitch, ByteDance’s TikTok, and Google’s YouTube – are working with giant food and beverage companies, such as Coca Cola, KFC, Pepsi and McDonald’s, to promote sugar-sweetened soda, energy drinks, candy, fast food, and other unhealthy products across social media, gaming, and streaming video. The report offers fresh new analysis and insight into the most recent industry practices.

Comment: All this calls for regulation, of course.  Any chance of that coming our way?

Dec 20 2016

Industry-funded study says advice to eat less sugar is based on bad science (surprise)

I haven’t posted an industry-funded study for a while, but here’s a good one.  This is a systematic review published in the Annals of Internal Medicine attacking dietary advice to eat less sugar on the grounds that such advice is not scientifically justified.

This one doesn’t pass the laugh test.

What are dietary guidelines supposed to do?  Tell people to eat more sugar?

This review is particularly peculiar:

  • It was funded by the International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI), a food-industry front group.
  • Two of the four authors consult for ILSI, and one of the two is on the scientific advisory board of Tate & Lyle, the British sugar company.
  • The authors admit that “given our funding source, our study team has a financial conflict of interest and readers should consider our results carefully.”  No kidding.
  • It was published by a prestigious medical journal.  Why?
  • It is accompanied by an editorial that thoroughly demolishes every single one of the authors’ arguments.

I can understand why ILSI wanted this review.  Many of its funders make sugary foods and drinks.  They would like to:

  • Cast doubt on the vast amounts of research linking excessive sugar intake to poor health.
  • Discredit dietary guidelines aimed at reducing sugar consumption.
  • Head off regulatory attempts to tax or label added sugars.

In funding this study, ILSI is following the tobacco industry playbook to the letter.  Strategy #1 is to cast doubt on the science.

When the 2015 Dietary Guidelines came out with a recommendation to restrict sugar intake to 10% of calories or less, the Sugar Association called it“agenda-based, not science-based.”  The Annals review says international sugar guidelines do not “meet criteria for trustworthy recommendations and are based on low-quality evidence.”

I detect a theme here.

But I ask again: what are dietary guidelines supposed to do?  We cannot lock up large numbers of people and feed them controlled amounts of sugar for decades and see what happens.  Short of that, we have to do the best we can with observational and intervention studies, none of which can ever meet rigorous standards for proof.  So this review is stating the obvious.

Take a look at the accompanying editorial.  After destroying each of the flawed premises of this review, it concludes:

Industry documents show that the F&B [Food & Beverage] industry has manipulated research on sugars for public relations purposes….Accordingly, high quality journals could refrain from publishing studies on health effects of added sugars funded by entities with commercial interests in the outcome. In summary, our concerns about the funding source and methods of the current review preclude us from accepting its conclusion that recommendations to limit added sugar consumption to less than 10% of calories are not trustworthy. Policymakers, when confronted with claims that sugar guidelines are based on “junk science,” should consider whether “junk food” was the source.

I don’t ever remember seeing a paper accompanied by an invited editorial that trashes it, as this one did, but this incident suggests a useful caution.

Whenever you hear that something isn’t “science-based,” look carefully to see who is paying for it.

The press coverage

Oct 26 2016

Follow up on my WikiLeak: the Australia connection

Marcus Strom of the Sydney Morning Herald in Australia did a follow up to my post, “I’ve been WikiLeaked!”

Recall that a Coca-Cola representative took notes at a talk I gave in Australia and passed them up the chain of command where they got hacked as collateral damage from the ones obtained from Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager, John Podesta.

The notes advised ongoing monitoring of my activities in Australia but also of research conducted by Dr. Lisa Bero, in whose group I was working for a couple of months early this year.

The article begins: 

Coca-Cola has been exposed having a secret plan to monitor research at Sydney University that examines how private companies influence public health outcomes in areas such as obesity.

In a leaked internal email, a paid consultant to Coca-Cola South Pacific writes that a “key action” for the global soft-drinks manufacturer is to “monitor research project outcomes through CPC [Charles Perkins Centre] linked to Lisa Bero’s projects”.

Future monitoring should include planned research on “treatment and prevention of obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease”, the email says.
Professor Bero, who works at the university’s Charles Perkins Centre, studies the integrity of industry-sponsored research and how it is used to influence public policy. While in the US, she worked to expose the influence of tobacco companies on health debates. Those methods are now being used to examine how companies like Coke seek to influence public health outcomes.

The reaction: See letters printed in response (you have to scroll way down to find them)

Roberto Mercadé, President of Coca-Cola South Pacific, wrote to object that Coke is not secretly monitoring academics; its monitoring is entirely public:

Readers of the article “Revealed: Coke’s plan to monitor academic” (Herald, October 22-23) may have been left with the impression that Coca-Cola South Pacific somehow engages in the “secret” monitoring of academics at the University of Sydney. Put simply, we don’t. We make no secret of the fact that we keep abreast of research in the health and wellbeing sector, as you would expect of any food or beverage company. The important work being done by the university on the integrity of industry-sponsored research is among the many fields important to us. Finally, in the article the word “monitor” was also used out of context and distorted to mean something other than what it is – our ongoing engagement with academics and experts in health and wellbeing.

Steve Harrison, Balmain

It’s no great surprise that Coca Cola is panicked by research into the cause of diabetes. The consumption of sugar and processed foods looks more and more like a major reason for diabetes, many cancers and other serious diseases. In turn, the company, the food industry and drug companies will all be in big financial trouble when the penny drops that a diet of fresh food is the basis for good health.

If a fraction of the money spent on seeking cures was used to educate people to cut processed food and sugar from their diet we would be a much healthier society. We went through a very similar process with Big Tobacco some years ago, although that was on a smaller scale.

In the words of Hippocrates: “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”

Ivan Head, Camperdown

The score? Coke, Zero: Professor Bero, one.

Tags:
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