As a recently published study has shown, soda companies have been funding health group research projects at the same time they were battling their unhealthy products allegations.
The paper published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine this Monday sets out to reveal the hidden ties and deep connections established between renowned soda companies and the health groups that are supposedly contesting them.
The study authors, Boston University’s School of public health professor, Michael Siegel, and medical school student, Daniel Aron, based their research on public records that can easily be accessed by the public, recordings like news releases, medical literature, lobby reports, and press information released by the companies themselves.
By studying the records, the co-authors revealed various health groups’ discrepancies and controversial actions following donations from the beverage industry. As their study is already sparking debates, some of the health associations were quick to respond to the allegations, whilst others chose to keep silent.
The controversies were generated by the fact that influential health advertisers, who in the past had maintained a strong stand against the sugary beverages, started relaxing their position after receiving study grants for their various projects from the same industry they had set out to incriminate.
It goes to show that the two companies funded numerous national organizations, some of which set out to fight diabetes and promote healthy nutrition. The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, one of the sponsored associations went to state that the received funds targeted local initiatives and fundraisers and that their foundation itself supports Type 1 diabetes research.
Co-author Siegel chose to consider these grants as a way of influencing and maybe even silencing the organization’s public support of various health measures and proposals, some of which could have posed an advantage in the battle against obesity or in sugared beverages consumption statistics. This opinion was based on the fact that most sponsorships seem to have been given out whilst the soda giants were lobbying against a number of 29 health bills that were intended or related to sugary drinks.
The American Beverage Association responded, in the name of Coca-Cola and PepsiCo., to the author’s silent and silencing apropos by stating that the companies are proud to support independent studies that could possibly improve the nation’s health, and have had a long history of philanthropic actions and research funding.
It also went to state that although they disagree with some of the taxes, as they consider them discriminatory, receive negative publicity and regressive product policies their wish and will to fight and address public health issues and to strengthen local and nation-wide communities is their bigger purpose.
Although some of the health groups mentioned in the study have since ended their collaborations with the beverage companies, the question still stands as to what the soda companies are truly trying to achieve through their dual fight and support tactic.
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