Demand to Know! Is the CDC Colluding with Coke?

Your tax dollars fund the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a federal agency that bills itself as “the nation’s health protection agency, working 24/7 to protect America from health and safety threats.”

But emails between the CDC and Coca-Cola executives suggest that the CDC may care more about Coke's profits than your health.

According to a study published in The Milbank Quarterly, the emails reveal that Coke executives used their cozy relationship with CDC officials “to gain and expand access, to lobby and to shift attention and blame away from sugar-sweetened beverages.” 

TAKE ACTION: Ask the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Reform to investigate Coca-Cola’s influence on the CDC

Coca Cola soda pop in a glass with ice cubes and in cans and a bottle

Emails obtained by U.S. Right to Know (USRTK) through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) reveal how Coca-Cola is colluding with the CDC to downplay the ill health effects of sugary soft drinks, which scientists at Harvard link to type 2 diabetes and heart disease, among other health problems.

The emails show how Coca-Cola uses its cozy ties at the CDC to promote its Coca-Cola products, and “to gain and expand access, to lobby, and to shift attention and blame away from sugar-sweetened beverages,” according to a study published in The Milbank Quarterly, which based its findings on emails and documents obtained by USRTK.

The Millbank study prompted two Congresswomen, Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) and Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.),  to call for an investigation.

In one instance, emails expose Coca-Cola’s attempts to use CDC executives to help pressure the World Health Organization (WHO) into reversing its position that sugary soda is strongly linked to obesity. A Coke executive wrote in an email to Barbara Bowman, director of the CDC's Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention:

“Please see report on WHO. This is getting a lot of publicity. We must find a way of some one [sic] such as a famous scientist [to] arrange to pay her a visit. Maybe Jim Hill or someone of similar stature or a US government scientist.”

Bowman, who worked as a senior nutritionist for Coke before joining the CDC in 1992, resigned in 2016, after that email went public. The emails suggest that Bowman was more interested in helping Big Soda gain political influence than in protecting public health.

Sugary beverages linked to more than 180,000 deaths worldwide

Research shows that sugar-sweetened beverages are linked to more than 180,000 deaths worldwide, including 133,000 diabetes deaths and 44,000 heart disease deaths. Studies also show that men who drank an average of one can of soda per day had a 20 percent higher risk of heart attack or dying from a heart attack compared to men who rarely drank soda.

And just recently, a new study published in Circulation, a journal published by the American Heart Association, suggests that people who frequently drink sugar-sweetened drinks, including soda, increase their risk of death from cardiovascular diseases, and to a lesser extent, cancer. (Want to know what happens to your body when you drink a can of Coke? Watch this).

Commenting on the inappropriate contact between Coke and the CDC, Gary Ruskin, co-director of USRTK, said in a press release:

“It is not the proper role of the CDC to abet companies that manufacture harmful products. Congress should investigate whether Coca-Cola and other companies that harm public health are unethically influencing the CDC, and subverting its efforts to protect the health of all Americans.”

We couldn’t agree more.

TAKE ACTION: Ask the House Committee on Oversight and Reform to investigate Coca-Cola’s influence on the CDC!

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