The Coca-Cola Company used its sponsorship of international public health conferences to deflect blame for the obesity epidemic away from its products, according to a study in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.
The study is based on documents about the 2012 and 2014 International Congresses of Physical Activity and Public Health (ICPAPH), obtained via state public records requests by U.S. Right to Know, an investigative public health group.
The study found that “Coke deliberated with its sponsored researchers on topics to present at ICPAPH, despite publicly claiming otherwise, in an effort to shift blame for the rising incidence of obesity and diet-related diseases away from its products onto physical activity and individual choice.”
“Coke used ICPAPH to promote its front groups and sponsored research networks and to foster relationships with public health leaders in order to use their authority to deliver Coke’s messaging,” the study’s authors wrote.
“This unseemly conscription of public health conferences to serve up Coca-Cola’s messaging erodes trust in the cause of public health,” said Gary Ruskin, executive director of U.S. Right to Know. “It’s long past time for the public health community to transform itself into something that can’t be bought or rented.”