It has been revealed that a nonprofit founded to combat obesity has received $1.5 million from Coca-Cola, but the organization claims the soda company had no influence on its work. (Side-eye…)
Emails reportedly obtained by The Associated Press indicate that the beverage company has actually been very instrumental in the development of Global Energy Balance Network — led by a University of Colorado professor — including helping choose its leaders, contributing to its mission statement, and suggesting articles and videos for its website.
In an email last November, the group's president reportedly told a top Coke executive, "I want to help your company avoid the image of being a problem in peoples' lives and back to being a company that brings important and fun things to them."
The Global Energy Balance Network first came under fire back in August after The New York Times reported it was funded by Coke. On Nov. 6, the University of Colorado School of Medicine said it was returning $1 million from the company because of the distraction it was creating.
The University of South Carolina said it plans to keep $500,000 it received from Coke because one of its professors is also among the group's leaders. The school said there was no misuse of funds, according to The Daily Mail.
Clearly, Coke’s relationship with the organization is a direct conflict of interest. By being such a big financial contributor, the company undoubtedly has the power to sway the messages about health and soda that the group presents to the public.
For example, other health and fitness experts who were paid by the bigwig company reportedly wrote online posts with suggestions for mini-sodas as a regular snack idea.
Health experts that collaborate with soda companies also have a tendency to cater to their interests by downplaying the negative effects of soda and sugary beverages and focusing on promoting more exercise.
As this issue has gone public, Coke has recently accepted the retirement of its chief health and science officer, Rhona Applebaum, who handled correspondence with Global Energy Balance Network.
Coincidence? Probably not … The company also reportedly said it has cut ties with Global Balance Network.
This whole ordeal brings about concerns of whether or not society can truly trust the people we seek health advice from?
When money is involved, there's really no telling the extent to which people will manipulate the public to further their own agendas.
Banner Photo Credit: flickr user Mike Mozart