This blog is not based on my own research but rather a New York Times article written by Anahad O’Connor in October of 2016 based on the findings published in an article in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine which was written by Michael Siegel, a professor at the Boston University school of public health and Daniel Aaron, a student at Boston University medical school. What they showed is that over the past five years Coke and Pepsi have projected themselves as committed to public health but have donated tens of millions to silence health critics and gain unlikely allies against soda regulations.
As Aaron states in the paper: “We wanted to look at what these companies really stand for. And it looks like they are not helping public health at all – in fact, they’re opposing it almost across the board which calls these sponsorships into question.” Aaron said that the industry donations created a “clear-cut conflict of interest” for the health groups that accepted them.
Kelly Brownell, dean of the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke has stated: “The beverage industry is using corporate philanthropy to undermine public health measures.”
Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition, food studies and public health at NYU said that the paper shows that soda companies: “want to have it both ways – appear socially responsible corporate citizens and lobby against public health measures every chance they get.”
Let me cite a few examples from their paper:
- From 2011 – 2015, Coke spent on average more than $6.0M per year lobbying against public health measures aimed at curbing soda consumption. Pepsi spent about $3.0M per year during that period and the American Beverage Association spent more than $1.0M each of those years.
- In 2009 alone, when the Federal Government proposed a federal soda tax to curb obesity that would help finance health care reform, Coke, Pepsi, and the American Beverage Association spent a combined $38M lobbying against the measure which ultimately failed.
- When the Mayor of Philadelphia proposed a soda tax in 2010, the beverage industry offered $10M to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia if the tax proposal was dropped. The donation was made and the City Council voted down the measure.
- A non-profit group called “Save The Children” had actively been supporting tax campaigns in several states but totally withdrew its support in 2010 after it accepted a $5.0M grant from Pepsi and a “major grant” from Coke to help pay for its health and education programs for children. Save The Children said that its decision to stop supporting taxes “was unrelated to any corporate support that Save the Children received.”
- When New York City proposed a ban on extra-large sodas in 2012, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics cited “conflicting research” and did not support the effort. The Academy accepted $525,000 in donations from Coke that very year followed by another $350,000 donation the next year.
- And finally, the NAACP and the Hispanic Federation have publically opposed anti-soda initiatives despite disproportional rates of obesity in black and Hispanic communities. Coke has made more than $1.0M in donations to the NAACP between 2010 and 2015 and more than $600,000 to the Hispanic Federation between 2012 and 2015. These groups would not respond to requests for comment.
In a separate statement, Pepsi said that it is “incorrectly painted as a ‘soda company’ when only a quarter of our global revenue comes from carbonated soft drinks” it also said that: “We believe that obesity is complex, multifaceted issue that a company has an important role to play in addressing it – which includes engaging with public health organizations and responding to consumers’ demand for healthier products.”
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Paul V. Profeta co-founded Profeta Farms with his wife, certified Integrative Nutrition Coach, Joanne Malino and organic farmer John Place. After graduating from Harvard College and Harvard Business School, Paul created a very successful real estate investment company. Concomitantly, he taught and published at Harvard Business School, created the Real Estate Investment Department at Columbia Business School, and most recently endowed the Chaired Professorship of Real Estate at Rutgers Business School resulting in the creation of the Rutgers Center for Real Estate. As a successful athlete in high school and college, Profeta was always interested in health, nutrition, and alternative medicine. Eventually, he decided that America has to change the way it feeds itself. Industrialized food processors shipping food across the country creating a large carbon footprint and offering “food products” with known contaminants and questionable ingredients was not the answer. He has created Profeta Farms, LLC as a template for the way America should feed itself… local, sustainable, certified organic farms featuring integrity and transparency, using the environment in a sustainable and responsible fashion while treating animals humanely so that local shoppers can “know their farmer” and personally check on the farmers methods and ingredients.