Activists sue Coca-Cola for 'deceptive' advertising of sugary drinks

A California-based NGO and the Center for Science in the Public Interest are suing beverage giant Coca-Cola and the American Beverage Association for "deceptive advertising" of their sugary soft drinks.

The suit alleges that Coke and the ABA have been deliberately downplaying the effects of their products on the public health, claiming that the rise in obesity and diabetes can be linked to sugary soft drinks.

Bloomberg:

Praxis, a California nongovernmental organization, is being represented by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, another nonprofit with a long history of litigation targeting the food and beverage industries.

“From the 1950s until the late 1990s, the tobacco industry engaged in an elaborate campaign of disinformation to cast doubt on the science connecting cigarettes to lung cancer and other diseases,” Maia Kats, litigation director for the center, said in a statement.

“Like the tobacco industry, Coca-Cola needs to replenish the ranks of its customers, and it tries to recruit them young,” Praxis said in its complaint, filed Wednesday in federal court in Oakland, California.

Coca-Cola products have labels providing calorie information, spokesman Kent Landers said in an e-mail, dismissing the lawsuit as meritless.

“We take our consumers and their health very seriously,” he said. “We will continue to listen and learn from the public health community and remain committed to playing a meaningful role in the fight against obesity.”

The American Beverage Association hasn’t received the complaint, said William Dermody, spokesman for the group. “We can’t comment on something we haven’t received yet.”

For soda giants, the need to be healthier is not new. Per capita soda consumption in the U.S. fell to a three-decade low in 2015, according to Beverage-Digest, a trade publication. 

Atlanta-based Coca-Cola and its biggest competitors, PepsiCo Inc. and Dr Pepper Snapple Group Inc., have pledged to decrease calories in their beverages and increase healthier options. The companies are responding to both new regulations and consumer demands as drinkers in the U.S. and other developed markets have turned away from sugar and artificial ingredients.

Coca-Cola has promoted smaller package sizes and non-cola drinks. It is relying less on soda, pushing into segments such as ready-to-drink coffee, plant-based protein drinks, cold-press juices and dairy. Coke has 200 reformulations in the works to cut back on sugar, including new versions of Fanta and Sprite already on shelves in the U.K.

Lawsuits and government regulation are superfluous.  The market is already having its way with soft drink makers who are responding to consumer demand by reducing sweeteners in their drinks (high-fructose corn syrup, not sugar) and reducing portions.

But comparing sugary drinks with tobacco is absurd.  There is zero evidence that drinking soda in moderate amounts causes any health problems whatsoever, while tobacco – even one or two cigarettes a day can eventually be deadly.

The key, as with most things in life, is moderation.  Too much salt is bad for you.  Too many carbs of the wrong kind are bad for you.  Too much red meat is bad for you.  Too many salty snacks are bad for you.

Those who overindulge pay the consequences.  Perhaps a better job could be done by the companies in consumer education, but reformulating their products is an excellent start in meeting the needs of their customers to eat and drink healthier. 

A California-based NGO and the Center for Science in the Public Interest are suing beverage giant Coca-Cola and the American Beverage Association for "deceptive advertising" of their sugary soft drinks.

The suit alleges that Coke and the ABA have been deliberately downplaying the effects of their products on the public health, claiming that the rise in obesity and diabetes can be linked to sugary soft drinks.

Bloomberg:

Praxis, a California nongovernmental organization, is being represented by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, another nonprofit with a long history of litigation targeting the food and beverage industries.

“From the 1950s until the late 1990s, the tobacco industry engaged in an elaborate campaign of disinformation to cast doubt on the science connecting cigarettes to lung cancer and other diseases,” Maia Kats, litigation director for the center, said in a statement.

“Like the tobacco industry, Coca-Cola needs to replenish the ranks of its customers, and it tries to recruit them young,” Praxis said in its complaint, filed Wednesday in federal court in Oakland, California.

Coca-Cola products have labels providing calorie information, spokesman Kent Landers said in an e-mail, dismissing the lawsuit as meritless.

“We take our consumers and their health very seriously,” he said. “We will continue to listen and learn from the public health community and remain committed to playing a meaningful role in the fight against obesity.”

The American Beverage Association hasn’t received the complaint, said William Dermody, spokesman for the group. “We can’t comment on something we haven’t received yet.”

For soda giants, the need to be healthier is not new. Per capita soda consumption in the U.S. fell to a three-decade low in 2015, according to Beverage-Digest, a trade publication. 

Atlanta-based Coca-Cola and its biggest competitors, PepsiCo Inc. and Dr Pepper Snapple Group Inc., have pledged to decrease calories in their beverages and increase healthier options. The companies are responding to both new regulations and consumer demands as drinkers in the U.S. and other developed markets have turned away from sugar and artificial ingredients.

Coca-Cola has promoted smaller package sizes and non-cola drinks. It is relying less on soda, pushing into segments such as ready-to-drink coffee, plant-based protein drinks, cold-press juices and dairy. Coke has 200 reformulations in the works to cut back on sugar, including new versions of Fanta and Sprite already on shelves in the U.K.

Lawsuits and government regulation are superfluous.  The market is already having its way with soft drink makers who are responding to consumer demand by reducing sweeteners in their drinks (high-fructose corn syrup, not sugar) and reducing portions.

But comparing sugary drinks with tobacco is absurd.  There is zero evidence that drinking soda in moderate amounts causes any health problems whatsoever, while tobacco – even one or two cigarettes a day can eventually be deadly.

The key, as with most things in life, is moderation.  Too much salt is bad for you.  Too many carbs of the wrong kind are bad for you.  Too much red meat is bad for you.  Too many salty snacks are bad for you.

Those who overindulge pay the consequences.  Perhaps a better job could be done by the companies in consumer education, but reformulating their products is an excellent start in meeting the needs of their customers to eat and drink healthier. 

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