The Empire (Coca-Cola) Strikes Back!

20 03 2010

Coca-Cola was quick to respond to my email! Their response is pretty much what I expected. Completely unsatisfactory. Of course, to make me happy, they’d have to admit that Coke is crappy for your health and for the world, which was never going to happen. But what is most bothersome is that they still blatantly say that there is link between soft drink consumption and obesity, along with the continued hypocrisy that they are super excited to help America get healthier.

Here is what they said:

From: cocacolasupport@na.ko.com

Date: March 18, 2010 10:29:12 AM EDT

Thank you for contacting The Coca-Cola Company.

Your email, and the few others like it we have received, are very troubling to our company.  We pride ourselves on providing safe, wholesome beverages to a thirsty public around the world.

We apologize if there was a misunderstanding with our message however, we stated that Coca-Cola classic can be a part of a healthy lifestyle and contributes to hydration, not that the beverage alone would provide most or all nutritional needs.

Worldwide, The Coca-Cola Company is committed to supporting programs that promote a balanced lifestyle and physical activity. In the US alone, our support of physical activity programs have helped more than four million young people become more active.

We are aware of the child hood obesity issues and The Coca- Cola Company strongly supports the American Beverage Association’s industry-recommended school beverage guidelines for the U.S. which accelerate the shift to lower calorie and nutritious beverages for children in schools.  This year we have included these guidelines to apply to schools globally.

We do understand that individuals in some areas in the U.S. and globally do not have the education on calories and healthy lifestyle living available to them.  We also believe that people need to hear a very clear and unequivocal message that calories do count, and that extra calories from sugar are no different from extra calories from any other source when considering risk for overweight and obesity.  They also need to know that it is important to have a balanced diet and to be physically active every day.  Research shows that calorie (or energy) information is important in helping people achieve energy balance and maintain a healthy weight. Front of package labelling is designed to help consumers make informed choices that enable them to stay within their total daily calorie allotment. In the U.S., the new labels appeared on bottles and cans in 2009 and they include calories per serving and number of servings per container information. We expect to have front package calories and energy globally by the end of 2011.

As you know, there are many studies available showing a possibility of sugar sweetened beverages causing obesity however, there are also studies refuting these finds.

An epidemiological study in 2009 involving Spanish teenagers found that excess weight and obesity are not related to the consumption of sweetened soft drinks (SSD).  The cross-sectional study, involving 1,283 teens aged 13 to 18, was originally presented in October 2007 (a field notice was sent in December 17, 2007) at the VIII Congress of the Spanish Society for the Study of Obesity.  The paper has now been published and peer reviewed.  The research is part of the AVENA (Alimentation and Evaluation of the Nutritional State of Teenagers) study, a multicenter study sponsored by the Spanish Ministry of Health, as well as international companies such as Procter & Gamble and The Coca-Cola Company.

The authors reported that:

-No association seems to be present in the studied population between SSD consumption and obesity.

-No differences were found in BMI between subjects having a moderate or even higher consumption of SSD compared to the non-consumers.

-Dietary patterns and physical activity need to be considered when examining epidemiological food intake relationships with obesity

-Intervention studies are crucial when trying to identify solutions of the increasing obesity epidemic.  (As noted above, this study was an epidemiological study, not an intervention study.)

We do understand that we will have to agree to disagree but, we wish you all the best.

Thanks,

Sheree

Industry & Consumer Affairs

The Coca-Cola Company

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Coca-cola and our health…

18 03 2010

After looking at Coca-Cola’s website and finding out all the beverage companies they own, I found a fitness section on their site as well. I was really confused by this. Why is the Coca-cola company, maker of the ever popular terrible for your health Coke soda, telling me how to stay fit? So, I wrote a letter to them, to which they, to my surprise, replied. Then I replied. Hopefully, I’ll hear back from them.

Anyway, I’d love to hear comments on how people feel about this. Is it just me, or do you think it is unethical for them to pretend to give a crap about our health? They DO own a bunch of healthy beverage company’s, many of which were previously privately owned (wah-wah), but I find it pretty crazy that they are attempting to disassociate all the detrimental effects of soda on this country’s obesity issues, by including a cute fitness section on their site.

Here’s our correspondence. I apologize in advance for the “Hugs, Danielle”- it is an unfortunate inside joke.
Sent:  3/12/2010 08:24:58 PM

To:  coca-cola.support@na.ko.com

So, I wanted to look-up who you guys (Coca-Cola) owned, as I am interested in avoiding your products due to ethical reasons. Thank you so, so much for listing them all on your site, so I can be sure to avoid ALL of them in the future.

On another note, I think it’s funny and odd that you guys offer nutrition information, especially fitness tips. Really? I know you guys own a bunch of beverages which ARE legitimately healthy, but your Coke product is a HUGE calcium leacher and being a soda, one of the leading causes of obesity in this country. You guys should really think twice before being so presumptuous as to associate your best selling product with anything related to health.

Hugs,

Danielle

Then, I received this response:

From: cocacolasupport@na.ko.com

Date: March 16, 2010 12:47:24 PM EDT

Thank you for contacting The Coca-Cola Company.  We appreciate the opportunity to respond to your concerns.

All of our beverages can be an enjoyable part of a healthy lifestyle and they all contribute to meeting the body’s hydration needs.  People have trusted and enjoyed soft drinks for more than 120 years.  Consumers today want choices and we offer a wide variety of beverages, including diet and regular soft drinks, waters, juices, teas, sports drinks and dairy-based products, as well as a range of portion sizes.  From our range of products and package sizes, consumers can make sensible beverage choices that are right for them.

No one food or beverage causes obesity.  Obesity is a complex problem that has no easy answers.  People gain weight when they consume more calories than their bodies use.  The most important thing that children and adults can do to maintain a healthy lifestyle is to eat a variety of foods in moderation and get between 30 and 60 minutes of physical activity every day.

Our website offers fitness tips because exercise is important for everyone, along with a variety of foods and beverages.  Coca-Cola is our flagship brand and can also be consumed as a party of a healthy lifestyle as long as it is within moderation.

The National Osteoporosis Foundation (http://www.nof.org/), as well as the Surgeon General of the United States recommend adequate calcium and vitamin D intakes, along with regular weight bearing physical activity, as the most important lifestyles measures you can take to build healthy bones.  The avoidance of smoking and excessive alcohol intake are also high on the list.  According to the Surgeon General’s Report, “as long as adequate levels of calcium intake are maintained, both carbonated and caffeinated beverages can be consumed in moderation” (page 265, http://www.surgeongeneral.gov/library/bonehealth/).  Caffeine, which is found in colas and energy drinks, coffee, and tea, can lead to a small decrease in calcium absorption, but this does not appear to be significant if adequate calcium levels are maintained.

To help ensure that you consume an adequate amount of calcium and vitamin D, The Coca-Cola Company fortifies some of our products with these nutrients.  Minute Maid Orange Juice with calcium and Minute Maid orange juice with calcium and vitamin D are two of our leading fortified products.  You may read about other calcium sources in both of the above references.

We hope this is helpful.  Feel free to contact us again should you have additional questions.

Thanks

Sheree

Industry & Consumer Affairs

The Coca-Cola Company

And finally, my response:

From: Danielle

Date: March 17, 2010 8:27:13 PM EDT

Dear Sheree:

Thank you very much for getting back to me. I really appreciate it.

While I understand that it is your job to support Coca-Cola, I could not help but take issue with your response. Now, before I continue, please note that in my initial email, and in this one, I am speaking toward Coke, your key product.

First of all, in the first paragraph, you say that all of your “beverages can be an enjoyable part of a healthy lifestyle and they all contribute to meeting the body’s hydration needs.” Coke is just pure calories- there are absolutely no nutritional benefits. In a can of Coke classic, you take in 27g of carbs. 27 of those 27 grams of carbs are from sugar. Okay, you get 1% of your daily sodium need in there- great. Besides that, nothing. No vitamins. No nutrients.

Now, I understand that you are probably not allowed to say anything negative about the Coca-Cola company, as they employ you, but I just don’t understand how your company can ethically pretend to promote health on your website when your most popular, widely known product is a huge contributer to obesity, specifically childhood obesity, which is an epidemic problem in America. Yes, of course if someone who exercises regularly drinks a can of Coke once in a while, it isn’t going to be a problem. That was not my point- which you seem to generalize in your response. You neatly listed the ACSM’s guidelines for health, and I would agree with them. As a certified fitness instructor and health enthusiast, I believe in those principles and promote them. The problem is, most are not exercising. If the Coca-Cola company truly hopes that people in this country get healthier, they should stop selling Coke. I realize this is completely unrealistic, but the more soda is promoted, the fatter this country is getting. It is in the statistics.

In a study conducted by Harvard, it was found that the “odds of becoming obese increased 1.6 times for each additional can or glass of sugar-sweetened soft drink consumed above the daily average.” That is a LOT!

Next is a quote from a recent CNN article, entitled: “Nutritionists: Soda making Americans drink themselves fat,” which quotes studies from both the USDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“The rise in soft drink consumption mirrors the national march toward obesity. At the midpoint of the 20th century, Americans drank four times as much milk as soda pop. Today, the ratio is almost completely reversed, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Meanwhile, in the past 30 years the national obesity rate has more than doubled, and among teenagers, more than tripled, reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”

Also, according to Marion Nestle, well known author of Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition, “Adolescents who consume soft drinks display a risk of bone fractures three to four-fold higher than those who do not.”

So, besides getting fatter, people are losing calcium by replacing calcium dense products with junk soda. Therefore, higher soda consumption is linked to calcium deficits. So, to address your paragraph that says soda intake has no impact on calcium deficiency, I must disagree. Again, I’m not talking about the person who is fit, works out on a regular basis, and occasionally choses to drink Coke. I am talking about the average sedentary American, many of whom are not offered the education to make healthy choices, nor are given healthy options.

On another ethical note, I could go on to talk about the Coca-Cola company’s issues with groundwater depletion and pollution around the world, but that’s a whole other issue.

I think it is great that the Cola-Cola company wants to promote a healthy lifestyle, and as you and I have both said, many of the labels you own provide fantastic products that are great for the body. In addition, the fitness information on your website is well thought out and clearly stated.

I guess what I am really asking for is the impossible. Honesty. I am looking for a company as large and established as yours to take a step back and be honest. Be honest about what soda, your number one product, is contributing to; an obesity epidemic. And if Coca-Cola is ever able to look past the vast amounts of money it makes and instead consider the damage soda is doing right now to adults and most importantly to children, the future of this country- maybe you’d think twice and change your opinion on the “healthy lifestyle” soda can be a part of.

Thanks for your time.

Danielle