Coke has been revealed to have paid an anti-obesity group $1.5 million, but the non-profit organization is denying that its activity has been influenced in any way by the corporation.
Back in August, the Global Energy Balance Network, spearheaded by a professor at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, was revealed to have been funded by the Coca-Cola Company.
The announcement made by the New York Times was shocking, give the fact that the group was supposed to be an independent organization, aimed at reducing the prevalence of diseases associated with sedentary lifestyles, obesity and inadequate nutrition.
On November 6, representatives of the University of Colorado School of Medicine declared that they would be renouncing $1 million of the $1.5 sum they had received from Coke, but that they would be keeping the rest of the money given that one of their academics was in the executive committee of the group.
According to them, the transaction had actually been just an “unrestricted gift” from the multinational beverage company, which hadn’t affected the non-profit’s decisions or projects in any way.
However, new emails that have just been retrieved by the Associated Press show that in fact Coca Cola had been extremely involved in shaping the anti-obesity group’s objectives and organizational structure.
In fact, company officials took part in establishing a mission statement for the Global Energy Balance Network, and even selected its main leaders.
Moreover, Coca Cola was instrumental in choosing which videos and articles should appear on the group’s website, and its officials frequently met and held video conferences with the nonprofit’s leaders so as to take decisions together.
For instance, they even influenced what logo the group would have, warning it not to choose blue, which is usually associated with Pepsi.
Even more staggeringly, the group’s president emailed a high-ranking Coke employee last year, expressing the desire to help the company improve its image, so that the public can see it as a source of fun and joy, instead of perceiving it as the epitome of unhealthiness.
The two sides were in clear assent, collaborating so that the anti-obesity group would gain greater visibility, and use it to further Coca Cola’s own agenda.
For instance, a proposal had outline how the Global Energy Balance Network would eventually become the primary source for information regarding the topic of obesity, whenever news publishers were in need of information.
Moreover, the document explained how the group would employ online networking and carry out guerrilla marketing, in an effort to combat “public health extremists” who were trying to alert the population about the dangers of soda and other unhealthy food items.
Another email exchange revealed how the group was planning a study on “energy balance”, to support the idea that high calorie intake, such as the one resulting from sugary beverages, wouldn’t actually be that harmful if people were more physically active.
In response to these recently surfaced accusations, Coca-Cola CEO Muhtar Kent has declared that there should’ve been a greater level of transparency and openness in communicating the actual participation of the company in the non-profit’s activity.
Moreover, it was announced that there would no longer be any relationship with Global Energy Balance Network. Rhoda Applebaum, the person who had been responsible with managing this account, has submitted her formal retirement letter.
Until the company re-evaluates its practices, there will be no one else to replace her as chief health and science officer at Coca Cola.
In fact, it’s not the first time that the company has been found guilty of having paid supposedly independent experts in order to support its activity.
For example, back in February numerous fitness and nutrition specialists were accused of having received money from Coca Cola in order to write articles with healthy tips, which also recommended soda as a potential snack.
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