Soda Maker Sponsorships for Health, Medical Groups

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Oct. 10, 2016 -- Coca-Cola Co. and PepsiCo provided sponsorships to 96 health and medical groups in the United States between 2011 and 2015, a new study says.

Those organizations included the American Heart Association, the American Diabetes Association and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, according to Boston University researchers Daniel Aaron and Michael Siegel, the Washington Post reported.

During the study period, one or both of the companies lobbied against 29 proposed public health bills or regulations meant to reduce soda consumption.

"Now, most organizations refuse tobacco money," the study authors wrote. "Perhaps soda companies should be treated similarly."

The Post said Coca-Cola and PepsiCo did not respond to a request for comment about the study, but a statement was provided by the American Beverage Association, which represents the two companies.

"America's beverage companies are engaged in public health issues because we, too, want a strong, healthy America. We have a long tradition of supporting community organizations across the country. As this report points out, some of these organizations focus on strengthening public health, which we are proud to support," the statement said.

In response to the study, the American Heart Association said it "is leading efforts to reduce consumption of sugary drinks," the Post reported.

It also stated: "To achieve our goals, we must engage a wide variety of food and beverage companies to be part of the solution. As clearly evidenced by our work, under no circumstances does such occasional funding have any influence on our science and the public policy positions we advocate for."

Aaron and Siegel began investigating the issue more than a year ago after noticing soda sponsorships for various health events. They were surprised to discover the number of sponsorships the two soda makers provided to health and medical groups, the Post reported.

The study raises concerns that the companies are using sponsorships to silence potential critics.

Save the Children was a strong supporter of soda taxes until 2010, when it received a $5 million grant from Coca-Cola. The groups denies the grant influenced its policy, the Post reported.

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