While I received many responses from American Dietetic Association (ADA) members who shared their personal opinion that the ADA should discontinue its sponsorship by the Coca-Cola Company and Pepsico, a few members defended these sponsorships. Their main argument was that although these companies market unhealthy products like Coke and Pepsi that are contributing to the obesity epidemic, they also market healthy products.
One ADA member wrote: "the companies you criticize have a wide variety of products available from good for you to more indulgent. These companies employ many of the best scientists in the world because they want to make a difference in providing healthier options to consumers."
Another wrote: "Both Coca Cola and Pepsi are massive companies that represent a multitude of brands. According to Cokes own website they have 3500 different brands in over 200 countries including water, fruit juice and soy beverages. Pepsi's brands include Frito Lay, Tropicana, and Quaker. Everyone focuses on the "worst" of these brands, the high calorie sodas, but seems to ignore all of the other possibilities within both Pepsi and Coke."
The Rest of the Story
One could make the exact same argument about Big Tobacco. But can you imagine if an anti-smoking group which accepted money from tobacco companies had defended these sponsorships by arguing that although Altria (maker of Marlboro, Virginia Slims, Basic, and Merit) markets Marlboro cigarettes, it also produced Balance Bars, Boca Burgers, Grape Nuts cereal, Shredded Wheat, and Light n' Lively yogurt. Sure Altria markets deadly cigarettes, but it also marketed healthy products such as nutritious cereals and yogurt and even vegetable burgers - a very healthy alternative to beef burgers.
Can you imagine the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids ever defending corporate funding from R.J. Reynolds (when it owned Nabisco) by arguing that although R.J. Reynolds makes Camel cigarettes, they also market very healthy snacks, including Wheat Thins, Stoned Wheat Thins, and Wheatsworth crackers?
When Coca-Cola drops its marketing of Coke and only sells its healthy line of products, then you can talk to me about how Coca-Cola is promoting the public's health.
When Coca-Cola stops lobbying against policies to improve school nutrition, then you can talk to me about how this corporation is promoting health.
The truth is, Coca-Cola and Pepsico are working directly against our public health goals. They are lobbying vigorously against even the most basic policies to improve school-based nutrition, policies that are supported by virtually every public health organization.
By supporting Coke and Pepsi's marketing plans, the ADA is literally shooting itself in the foot. It is supporting companies that are lobbying against improved school nutrition. It is partnering with an enemy of improved nutrition for school children.
That bears repeating. The ADA is partnering with an enemy of improved nutrition for school children.
As Michele Simon pointed out, Coca-Cola and Pepsico are "on record as opposing virtually every state bill across the nation that would restrict the sale of junk food or soda in schools."
What great companies for the ADA to be partnering with.
But I guess that's OK, because Coca-Cola also sells Gold Peak green tea and Pepsico also sells Tropicana orange juice.