Monday December 9, 2019

Here’s How Coca-Cola Retains Power to Kill some Health Research

However, while contracts show Coca-Cola does not control day-to-day conduct, the company retains various rights throughout the process

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Soda, sugar-sweetened beverages in frame.

Coca-Cola supports research in the fields of nutrition, physical inactivity and energy balance, but a contract mechanism could allow the American soft drink giant to “quash” findings from some of the health research it funds, reveals a new study from University of Cambridge.

The study, published in the Journal of Public Health Policy, identified several clauses in legal documents that give the company early sight of any findings, combined with the right to “terminate without reason” and walk away with the data and intellectual property.

Taken together, these clauses could suppress “critical health information” and indeed may have done so already, according to the study’s authors.

The researchers examined over 87,000 documents obtained through Freedom of Information requests.

“It is certainly true that the contracts we have found allow for unfavourable developments or findings to be quashed prior to publication,” said lead author Sarah Steele, a policy researcher from Cambridge’s Department of Politics and International Studies.

The authors argued that the clauses contravene Coca-Cola’s commitments to transparent and “unrestricted” support for science, which came after criticism of the opaque way some major food corporations fund health research.

“Coca-Cola have declared themselves at the forefront of transparency when it comes to food and beverage giants funding health research. In fact, our study suggests that important research might never see the light of day and we would never know about it,” Steele said.

“We are already hearing accusations from experts in nutrition that the food industry is copying tactics from big tobacco’s playbook. Corporate social responsibility has to be more than just shiny websites stating progressive policies that get ignored,” Steele added.

soda
The “soft drinks” were defined as caffeinated colas, caffeine-free colas and other carbonated beverages (such as diet ginger ale). Pixabay

Consumption of high calorie, low nutrient food and drink is believed to be a major factor in the childhood obesity epidemic.

US Right to Know, a non-profit consumer and public health research group, submitted 129 Freedom of Information requests between 2015 and 2018 relating to academics at North American institutions who received Coca-Cola funding.

The research team combed through the vast tranche of resulting documents and discovered five research agreements made with four universities: Louisiana State University, University of South Carolina, University of Toronto and the University of Washington.

The funded work includes “energy flux and balance” studies and research on beverage intake during exercise.

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Coca-Cola’s own transparency website declares that scientists retain full control over their research and the company has no right to prevent publication of results.

However, while contracts show Coca-Cola does not control day-to-day conduct, the company retains various rights throughout the process.

These include the right to receive updates and comment on findings prior to research publication, and the power to terminate studies early without reason, the study said. (IANS)

Next Story

Coca-Cola on Track to Complete its $1.7 bn Investment in ‘Fruit Circular Economy’

Globally, Coca-Cola offers over 500 brands in more than 200 countries and territories

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Coca Cola is known to spend a huge amount of money on its advertisement campaigns. Wikimedia Common
Coca Cola is known to spend a huge amount of money on its advertisement campaigns. Wikimedia Commons

Global FMCG major Coca-Cola is on track to complete all its investment commitments in India, including the $1.7 billion funding to create a “Fruit Circular Economy” meant to aide the Indian agri-ecosystem, a senior company executive told IANS.

The planned investment of $5 billion announced by the company in 2012 is expected to be completed by 2020 for retail infrastructure creation, bottling plants and introduction of new products, amongst others.

Since its re-entry into India in 1993 till 2011, Coca-Cola invested $2 billion in the country. “We are on track with our investment commitments of $5 billion by 2020. That’s on track,” a senior executive with the beverages major’s India arm told IANS.

Additionally, the company has committed an investment of $1.7 billion or more than Rs 11,000 crore towards creating a “Fruit Circular Economy” aiding the Indian agri-ecosystem for the next five years till 2023.

“This investments will help catalyse the entire fruit value chain helping take them from the grove to the glass,” the executive said.

Apart from its planned investments, Coca-Cola India has initiated the next stage of its transformation into a “growth-oriented, consumer-centred, Total Beverage Company”.

“As part of this journey, we continue to expand our beverages portfolio to provide more choices to our customers across our Indian and global portfolio,” the executive said.

The company recently set up a new business venture division to incubate and scale-up new businesses.

coca cola
“The decision by more than 30 companies to publicly disclose their annual plastic packaging volumes in the report is an important step towards greater transparency,” it said. Pixabay

“This new division is focused on broadening our beverages range so that our portfolio appeals and is available to wider parts of society,” the executive said.

“One part of the strategy here is to look across Coca-Cola’s global portfolio and bring brands to India that we think will resonate with the consumers here, thus offering them more choice,” the executive added.

Consequently, the beverage major in India entered into new segments, like the niche but potentially high-volume non-alcoholic malt drinks market with its global brand, Barbican.

Other notable additions to its portfolio this year have been Rani Float and Powerade, both of which were brought to India from the company’s global portfolio.

“Our 2020 plans include making both Rani Float and Powerade more widely available pan India,” the executive said.

Besides, the company’s India unit is also incubating its own brands, one of them being Aquarius Gluco-charge, which was launched about a year-ago across some parts of the country.

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“Other incubations include experimenting in beverages that are more unique to India. Our aim is to be the preferred choice of beverage, no matter what your beverage preference is,” the executive added.

Globally, Coca-Cola offers over 500 brands in more than 200 countries and territories.

In India, the company offers beverage brands like Coca-Cola, Coca-Cola Zero, Diet Coke, Thums Up, Fanta, Fanta Green Mango, Limca, Sprite, Sprite Zero, VIO Flavoured Milk, Kinley and BURN energy drinks, amongst others. (IANS)