If you’re anything like me, you find yourself waging war against junk food on a daily basis. It’s not just that these sugary drinks and salty snacks are oh so delicious (and more than a little addictive), it’s that we’re literally being constantly and mercilessly bombarded.
Those weapons of mass destruction that bombard our senses and sensibilities aren’t explosive or sharp-edged, but they do far more damage than any traditional weapons. I’m talking about companies like Coca-Cola, Domino’s and McDonald’s. They use artfully crafted marketing campaigns and other subliminal means to get our attention.
This might all seem a touch overly dramatic. However, when you look at the numbers, it’s not hard to see why this is a big deal. Coca-Cola is a prime example, included in Anti-Media’s “10 Worst Food Companies That Are Poisoning You Daily And Lying About It” article. Products such as Coke and Diet Coke contain more than half a dozen health-damaging chemical additives, including:
- E150D — a caramel food coloring agent which is a suspected carcinogen.
- E952 — otherwise known as sodium cyclamate. The FDA banned this artificial sweetener in 1969, then the WHO weirdly reinstated it ten years later. The ban was likely linked to the fact that lab tests showed the development of bladder tumors in rats fed sodium cyclamate.
- E950 — affectionately known as acesulfame potassium. This addictive artificial sweetener has been under the scientific microscope recently due to claims that the FDA’s safety tests were inadequate.
- E951 — the infamous aspartame. You’ve probably already heard the rumors that aspartame has the potential to cause brain tumors, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, chronic fatigue, Alzheimer’s, and a range of other autoimmune diseases.
If you’re not sweeping all remnants of Coca-Cola products from your house right now, you should be.
Yet despite all the damning evidence that Coke and other junk-food products are literally killing us by the millions, people are still buying this garbage. Just yesterday, I noticed a morbidly obese man carrying something to the counter in a gas service station. Upon closer inspection, it became quickly apparent that he was toting a 2.25-liter bottle of Coke.
It’s fair to assume that our gentleman in question was very unhealthy already, and in all likelihood suffering from diabetes. And yet here he was, willingly buying an oversized bottle of Coke and thereby further ruining his health. Why?
Part of the problem surely lies with Coca-Cola’s aggressive marketing strategies and big spending on sponsorships.
Coca-Cola spends big
Coca-Cola is easily the biggest spender in the beverage industry — and it shows. The corporate giant spent close to $3.5 billion on advertising alone in 2014. This amount looks set to increase into the future. Just in case you didn’t catch that: they spend $3.5 billion just on ads and other marketing campaigns. That’s a whole lot of cash.
According to Investopedia, this allows Coca-Cola to gain a competitive advantage in key areas, increase “brand awareness and brand equity among consumers” and “increase the knowledge and education of consumers.” Do you think that education of consumers is in the best interests of their health? You know it ain’t! This so-called “education” is essentially just another way of convincing you that it’s okay to drink Coke. That is, as long as it is accompanied by something like a “balanced diet and regular exercise routine.”
The Coca-Cola Foundation’s connections
Not only that, in 2012 The Coca-Cola Foundation donated $3.2 million for “active, healthy living.” How exactly they managed to convince anyone that Coke can be part of an active, healthy lifestyle I’ll never know. But you can bet your life that there are very few truths involved in that claim.
The foundation also spent an estimated $630,000 on education. They devoted one-third to helping the American Diabetes Association for education outreach of Latino communities and several underprivileged metropolitan areas. Another $100,000 went to the American Diabetes Association to help expand its Kids Eat Right campaign.
Hold up a minute. The American Diabetes Association is accepting money from Coca-Cola, one of the biggest causes of diabetes in America? Millions of Americans suffer from type 2 diabetes, and much of this can be attributed to sugar-enriched beverages. For the association to accept this money, there must be something seriously wrong with what Coca-Cola is doing. And considering the association has an annual budget of around $100 million, it’s not as if they’re desperate for the cash!
Coca-Cola is buying off big name health officials
As if misleading “education” programs and sneaky marketing isn’t enough, it seems that Coke has been doing some dirty dealings behind-the-scenes too. Last year, reports surfaced of a collusion between Coca-Cola and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
US Right to Know (USRTK) unearthed email correspondences between the CDC and Coca-Cola. The emails reportedly revealed correspondence between the director of CDC’s Division for Heart Disease and Prevention and the founder of a food industry-funded group called International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI). This founder, Alex Malaspina, also happens to be a top executive at Coca-Cola.
The subject of the email correspondence between Malaspina and the CDC’s division director (Barbara Bowman) was with regards to the WHO’s latest sugar guidelines. These guidelines specifically targeted sugary beverages like Coke, stating that they are a key cause of childhood obesity around the world. Understandably, this was a major blow to the artificial beverage industry, most of all Coca-Cola. The company is already struggling to downplay a growing body of damning scientific evidence.
The emails showed CDC’s Dr. Bowman trying to help ILSI/Coca-Cola’s Dr. Malaspina. Bowman repeatedly attempted to aid Malaspina’s relationship with the WHO, whose recent guidelines were hurting the beverage industry. The report went on to say that Bowman “appeared happy to help the beverage industry cultivate political sway with the World Health Organization.” Bowman is supposed to be a spokesperson for disease prevention.
Essentially, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Here we have a reputable organization that exists to prevent the spread of diseases and health conditions. Yet, they’re being manipulated by the very deep pockets of Coca-Cola to do the very opposite. It’s shocking, but what’s more shocking is that this is one of many such instances.
Donating to national health groups
A 2016 article published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine reports that PepsiCo and Coca-Cola collectively gave money to 96 national health groups between 2011 and 2015. This figure likely doesn’t include the dealing Coca-Cola indirectly had with the CDC. Who knows how many others have gone undetected. Other known organizations that funded by Coke and Pepsi include Feeding America, Academy of Nutrition and Diabetics, American Society for Nutrition and the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation. Big names in the health world.
Lobbying against health bills
Not only that, the article also showed that PepsiCo and Coca-Cola lobbied against 29 public health bills aimed at improving nutrition. The authors said, “these companies lobbied against public health intervention in 97 percent of cases, calling into question a sincere commitment to improving the public’s health. By accepting funding from these companies, health organizations are inadvertently participating in their marketing plans.”
It might seem like no-strings-attached funding to many of these organizations. However, by accepting the money of companies like Coca-Cola, they are helping the soda industry to continue their campaign against public health.
Beverage industry marketing akin to Big Tobacco
The aggressive marketing and subversion strategies of “big soda” companies have led many health experts to draw similarities to the Big Tobacco days. Marion Nestle, author of the book Food Politics, certainly agrees. “First, they attack the science, then they fund community groups, promote exercise as a solution and say they’re self-regulated.”
The same article which revealed just how many health officials Coke and Pepsi are subverting with their money came to the same conclusion. “Organizations that accept money generate a conflict of interest, which introduces a subconscious bias in favor of the donor company. Lessons can be learned from the history of tobacco companies. They have long given money to sympathetic organizations that deal with domestic abuse, hunger and minority advancement. Now, most organizations refuse tobacco money. Perhaps soda companies should be treated similarly.”
Society needs some perspective
I couldn’t agree more. We must overturn the health-degrading motives of these soda and junk food companies. But first, society needs to have a serious change of perspective when it comes to sugary drinks and other products which can directly harm our health.
While the likes of Coke may not have the same damaging effects as cigarette smoke, it has all of the others. For starters, it’s highly addictive, causing a surge of dopamine not dissimilar to that a heroin addict might experience. Next, it completely messes with your blood sugar levels. Finally, it significantly increases your risk of life-threatening diseases, such as diabetes, obesity and heart disease.
Perhaps the only real difference between Coke and tobacco is the fact that it’s actually quite cheap to buy. American authorities are finally coming to recognize that a tax, like that on cigarettes, may be a necessary step with soda companies. Several U.S. cities are putting a local soda tax up for a vote. These include San Francisco and Oakland, California and Boulder, Colorado.
Soda tax for public health
The city of Berkeley, California was the first in the U.S. to enact a soda tax. The results could not have been more positive. A study published this year in the Journal of Public Health showed that taxing sugar-sweetened beverages by just a penny per ounce in Berkeley reduced soda consumption by a whopping 21 percent in low-income neighborhoods. If the government rolled out this tax, imagine the difference it could make to millions of Americans.
The majority of the population is beginning to recognize the dangers of sugary sodas and other types of junk food. Still, companies like Coca-Cola aren’t going to give up their highly profitable market without a fight. And with pockets as deep as theirs, who knows what they might do to keep their products on the shelves.
Have you ever noticed any advertising by companies like Coca-Cola that seemed a little questionable? We’d love to hear your take on the matter!
— Liivi Hess