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Conflict of Interest: Big Soda Companies Donated to 96 Health Organizations for Marketing Scheme?

Oct 11, 2016 04:00 AM EDT
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Highlighting a conflict of interest, sponsorship provided by two giant soda companies to health organizations has been identified as a new so-called marketing strategy. A recent study has revealed this shocking marketing scheme after disclosing a list of institutions on a research paper recently published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Funds were provided to 96 health-related organizations from 2011-2015 by Coca-Cola Co. and PepsiCo, according to the study conducted by Daniel Aaron and Michael Siegel, MD, researchers from the Boston University. As part of a company’s corporate social responsibilities (CSR), allocating funds for these types of activities can be considered as a way of returning the favor to the people who are also their clients. However, companies have found a way to tweak CSR to their favor.

Based from the research article, support Coca Cola and Pepsi to some health programs were quite intriguing, especially after tracing further that the essence of these programs funded by the companies do not match.

Culling through the records of the soda companies, it was found out that they have been supporting groups that should have been flagging programs on proper diet and preferably go against high soda consumption. Identified as well are two organizations concerned with diabetes, the American Diabetes Association and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, which surprised the authors. Diabetes cases were highly associated to soda intakes; thus, making the companies’ “sincere commitment” questionable.

A press release on the study’s highlights has mentioned that the companies or their lobbying partners were found to oppose 28 proposed regulations or bills that tried to impose additional taxes for soda as well as limit product advertisements.

Authors have emphasized that these actuation clearly show that soda companies are really after the maximization of profit, masking their vested interests through supporting health programs. Sponsorship were used as a form of pacifying the rants against their products, placing public health at risk.

With the head-turning results of the study, the American Beverage Association, which represents Coca Cola and Pepsi, has provided their view and statement to Aaron and Siegel’s paper through the Washington Post, saying, “America’s beverage companies are engaged in public health issues because we, too, want a strong, healthy America. We have a long tradition of supporting community organizations across the country. As this report points out, some of these organizations focus on strengthening public health, which we are proud to support.”

Meanwhile, Coca-Cola Co. and PepsiCo. have kept their silence on the issue. Since the U.S. has been racing with other countries to top-notch obesity rates, with soda consumption considered as one of the culprits, Aaron and Siegel recommended that health organizations should be more careful in accepting funds from institutions such as soda companies to veer away from conflict of interest.

The Academy of Nutrition and Diabetics, the American Academy of Pediatrics and several other groups have already ended their contracts with the soda companies by the end of 2015.

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