Here’s How Coke is Buying the Silence of Health Organizations. For Pocket Change

The Coca Cola Foundation

There’s this macabre joke about a guy who kills his parents and then at the sentencing asks the judge for mercy because he’s an orphan. The junk food industry is using a similar ploy – slowly but surely ruining the health of billions of people around the globe, but then buying sympathy by spending a pittance of its marketing budget on donations to various “health” causes.

Don’t believe us?

Take the Coca Cola Company, for example. The liquid candy behemoth has annual global sales of $30 Billion, and makes a net profit of $10 Billion dollars. Coke will spend $11 billion dollars in marketing just in 2012!! This include commercials, ads, event sponsorships (London Olympics), and more.

In a press release from yesterday, we learn that the Coca Cola Foundation is donating $10.5 million for global sustainability and education campaigns. Here’s how part of the money is being allocated (and what it really means, in italics)

  • $3.2 million for active, healthy living – Because everyone knows that 12 tsp of sugar in a can of Coke won’t make you fat; you can simply burn those calories off jogging for 75 minutes.
  • $2.9 million for water stewardship – because setting up bottling plants in over-exploited desert areas in the third world makes perfect sense.
  • $780,000 for community recycling – Because it’s not Coke’s fault that 73% of plastic bottles don’t get recycled.

Had enough? There’s more!

The  $630,000 earmarked for “education” is the most troubling in our mind:

  • American Diabetes Association is getting $200,000 for education outreach into the Latino community and several metro areas.
  • American Dietetic Association is getting $100,000 to expand its  Kids Eat Right campaign .

This is simply unfathomable. How can the American Diabetes Association in its right mind take money from the company that contributes the most to this terrible disease? More than 20 million Americans suffer from Type 2 diabetes, and most of them acquired it from overloading their bodies with junk foods and drinks. Liquid candy like Coke shares the responsibility. Another 75 million Americans are well on their way to diabetes because of excess consumption.

Please, please, please, don’t bring up the “moderation” angle, or tell us that there are no bad foods (drinks). Sugary soft drinks cannot be consumed in moderation when they are pushed into our faces with $10,000,000,000.00 worth of marketing spend every year.

Do you really think a measly education pamphlet or 30 minute community center class has a chance against the marketing might of Coke’s top notch ad agencies?

Coke has paid less than a hundredth of a percent of its marketing budget to buy the silence of these organizations and their leaders. How can they now be firm and adamant when they shook hands with Coke executives and took their money?

The American Dietetic Association has an annual budget of around $100 million. Does it really need to take money from Coca Cola?

UPDATE: Ryan O’Malley, spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association (now know as the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics) emailed us with the following response:

…to say that Coca-Cola’s donation is buying our silence is just factually inaccurate and irresponsible. To demonstrate, here are several examples from the Kids Eat Right website itself encouraging families to limit and stop their consumption of sugary beverages and soft drinks.  ,

You just cannot honestly say that their support buys our silence, as we always have and will continue to encourage consumers to reduce and even omit sugary beverages from their diet.

What do you think?

  • Mark

    Mostly I agree. However, even though I enjoy the taste of pop, I don’t drink it, unless it’s with alcohol, or a very rare occurrence. I drink water, everyday, all day. I think if you realize how bad it is, and want to really be healthy, you can ignore it. It takes willpower.

    And this is coming from a guy who, a few years back, wouldn’t come home unless juice or pop was available to drink, I would go days without having a sip of water. Now I usually consume less than 24 ounces of juice, pop, or alcohol in any week.

  • Jensen Gelfond

    I suspect that nonprofits like the American Diabetes Association might not be nearly as large and influential as they are now if not for corporate contributors. Perhaps we’re just expecting too much of these semi-corporate nonprofits, they and Coke were built for each other. Now, I wonder what that says about our culture and politics…

  • Mike C

    Pointless liberal nonsense! What does the author suggest? Anything? What, ban soft drinks? What about doughnuts? Candy? Might as well. But that’s ok the government can give us our diets, and our jobs, our healthcare and everything else for that matter. Or maybe, just maybe, we can make responsible choices, teach our children to do the same, and live as a FREE PEOPLE in charge of our own destiny. Liberal propaganda like this is a heck of a lot more dangerous than 12 tsp of sugar!

    • Ashley Lowe

      First of all this article is not about the government. It’s about nonprofit organizations, whose missions are to promote healthy diets and reduce diabetes, accepting money from an industry that thrives on selling unhealthy food products that CONTRIBUTE to diabetes. It would be like the American Lung Association taking money from Malboro. The problem with talking only about “personal responsibility” is that everybody thinks they’re immune to advertising. The industry wouldn’t waste billions of dollars every year to peddle soda to you if it didn’t work but as they say, “the best trick the Devil ever played was convincing the world he didn’t exist”. You’re not immune to their advertising, and your kids especially aren’t.

      • Mike C

        So organizations that need money to help people should not accept money if to do so might be deemed by some as hypocritical? Brilliant! And people should be “shielded” in some way (you make no suggestions on how that would work in a FREE society) from products that are deemed unsafe by some what, some government panel?

    • Lynne

      You obviously don’t have kids

      • Mike C

        And you obviously want help from the government in raising yours. Banned products, censorship and government oversight on charitable contributions all so you don’t have to teach your kids anything. Great idea! Let’s child proof the whole world. When you sacrifice freedom for safety you find yourself with neither – Thomas Jefferson.

        • Fooducate

          Nice quote Mike. Unfortunately, totally wrong context.
          Letting corporations set the agenda for public health seems like a mighty big sacrifice of freedom.

          • baldgroove

            Yet – its perfectly acceptable for most of public health to receive funds from Pharma?

          • Fooducate

            Of course not.

    • Gregg

      Mark, you Tea-bagger you! Your right wing propaganda is better? Please, don’t let science and logic stand in the way of your gutless brownshirt rhetoric.

      • Mike C

        How quick liberals are to make outrageous comparisons with people with whom they disagree. Brownshirt, real nice. I’m the won talking about free people staying informed and making sound choices. The point of view you defend limits freedom to sell products, donate to charities and the like. But I’m the Brown shirt. Wise up simpleton.

        • Jacob Lee Bane

          If you were really informed you’d know that the notion of political duality is a falsehood. Making a point with childish, schoolyard political belief is as futile as saying, “My dad could beat your dad up.” It has no relevance. The puppets change but those pulling the strings remain behind the curtain to keep on steering us.

  • Violet

    How is Coca Cola Company money contributing to the politics of subsidized big-business farming of GMO corn and “food stamp” purchases of their product, etc?

  • EGraceV

    Amen! The hypocrisy is unbelievable. Kick the Can on soda. It’s time for healthier leaner USA.

  • carolee1945

    Advertising really does work. That is the bottom line here. I try to avoid it at all costs, using the DVR to record tv shows, fast forwarding through the ads. My goodness, they have ads for Coke now when I pay big bucks to go to a movie. And in my town, there is a theater where you can get a movie without ads, but you have to pay extra for that privilege!!! That is how far we have come, and we don’t know it.

  • j

    “because setting up bottling plants in over-exploited dessert areas in the third world makes perfect sense.” Dessert is what you eat after dinner.

    • Fooducate

      Typo fixed. thanks!

    • Jshin

      Good editing but hardly the point

  • Ryan Tramonte

    This article is completely out of touch with reality. First of all, Coke has spent way more money on water sustainability and sustainable packaging than this article suggests. Internally theyre working towards 100% water sustainability and producing bottles composed of environmentally friendly plant matter. Think about it. Coke has a much larger vested interest in water sustainability than the author of this article. Why would they want to dry up clean water? But I guess its easy to stand on the sidelines and claim theyre “exploiting desert communities.”

    Not to mention Coke’s bottling partners are locally owned in these “exploited communities” all around the world and literally employ hundreds of thousands of people worldwide (if not more considering the ripple effect to retail stores, truck drivers etc). So until the author and those that agree can design and implement a political economic system thats more effective at giving precious jobs to more people than a markets system you should embrace CSR, stop criticising so much, rather encourage companies like Coke to coninue to do more in community development and ethical business practices. I am confident you will have more success this way than shouting and demonizing.

    • Fooducate

      Do you mean a political system that is not heavily influenced by junk food/drink lobbying groups such as the American Beverage Association and the “Center for Consumer Freedom”?

    • Jacob Lee Bane

      Ryan, they’re doing all those things for the good of Coca-Cola, not the good of mankind and the welfare of planet earth. There is nothing ethical about exploiting poor people for massive profits.
      They’re looking into plant based bottles because they know that cheap oil is running out and they obviously need clean water to make their vile beverages. Again, these are not ethical reasons, they’re pure business strategies aimed at increasing, or at least sustaining that $10 billion profit per year.

      I wonder what wonderful things they’re going to do for their poor third world employees with a cut of that money… Hopefully they’ll fare better than the Colombians in the mid 1980s when they tried to form unions at the bottling plants.

  • Brian Varley

    “This is simply unfathomable. How can the American Diabetes Association in its right mind take money from the company that contributes the most to this terrible disease?” This is irresponsible journalism. To say Coca-Cola is the largest reason for Diabetes is pure hyperbole. And I most certainly will bring up the “moderation” angle, it’s called making a decision to not overindulge or more simply put, will power. Coca-Cola can run ads 24-7 and it simply won’t make me drink more or even think of giving it to my child.
    It’s about personal responsibility.

    • Fooducate

      Kudos Brian! It’s wonderful that you are not affected by ads. But unfortunately, everyone else is. Especially children. Coke would not spend $10 billion a year to convince people to drink its products if advertising wouldn’t work.

  • Type 1.5 Diabetic

    Diabetes IS NOT CAUSED BY SUGAR INTAKE – that is an unfounded myth. Diabetes is caused at least in part by genetics. See for yourself here:

    Please stop spreading that myth.

    • Jacob Lee Bane

      I fail to see how a search for the ‘diabetes gene’ is proof that sugar intake doesn’t affect the insane growth of diabetes cases we’ve seen in the last 30 years – a strange coincidence with the excessive amount of sugar and chemical processing that occurs in ‘food production’ nowadays.
      If I wanted I could find evidence for just about anything on the internet so your link to a page of search results is, as far as I’m concerned, null and void.
      I can, however, see for myself that we’ve become a society of gluttons; fast food junkies, junk food junkies and sugar junkies.
      Portions are bigger, the contents are completely non-nutritious and yet they are the cheapest and easiest options for most people. Sadly, the food industry feeds the pharmaceutical industry and vice versa. If you keep people sick and malnourished you keep the business rolling – that is what we’re witnessing right now. The sharp increase in diabetes cases is absolutely because of these things.

  • Gregg

    Ryan, what department of Coke do you work for? Are you a counter-blogger for the PR department? If so, your personal ethics ought to supplant the abscence of same in your employeers grevious culture of shareholder value first and foremost. It is fair to respond to criticism but to do it in the way I suspect you have simply proves up the negative view many hold of Coke. State clearly for whom you speak. Stop decieving; it is ham fisted and has only the opposite effect.

    • Ryan Tramonte

      Gregg, I am 100% not a Coke employee, but I am educated on CSR, and I find Coke to be a leader in the field, along with other evil monsters like Nike (gasp), IBM, and Microsoft.

  • Matt

    How is this a “daily tip”?

    • Fooducate

      We just tipped you off on another dirty practice of the junk food industry to watch out for. Don’t you feel enlightened? Fooducated? :-)

      • Matt

        Not really. We already knew soda is bad.

  • The Dev

    Hahaha the jogging one made me laugh. Good one Fooducate guys.

  • Lauren

    “Sugary soft drinks cannot be consumed in moderation when they are pushed into our faces with $10,000,000,000.00 worth of marketing spend every year.”

    Umm, yes they can. It’s called personal responsibility. The fact is that consumers want these products and are buying them of their own free will. It is good that there are sites like this to educate consumers so they can make more informed decisions, but please, bring it down a notch. This feels less like education than it does like propaganda.

    • Fooducate

      Ummm, consumers want these products even more because of crazy unbridled advertising. Especially young impressionable consumers targeted in ads. Where is the corporate responsibility not to subject our kids to hundreds of junk food messages on any given day?

      • Lauren

        First of all, the only reason they would be subjected to hundreds of junk food messages in a day is if they are sitting in front of a TV for hours. Secondly, children should be taught media literacy as well as basic nutrition so they can make sound decisions for themselves when they get older. In the meantime, parents should be able to regulate their children’s diets. Lastly, consumers want these products because they taste good and because our brains are hard-wired to crave them. Yes, it’s hard to fight temptation but it’s an individual’s responsibility to do so, not the corporation’s.

        • Fooducate

          So the more education kids get about media literacy, the better they can fend off commercials. Sounds good.
          Hope the $100k Coke paid the American Dietetic Association will results in enough educational material for kids to counter the $10B in advertising.
          And children are subjected to junk food messages in many additional places – any vending machine, any trip to the supermarket, any time they go to a sporting event, on billboards, in the magazines they read, and on the web. What would you have us do? Lock our kids up in a dark room?

          • Thenotoriousdak

            It’s a parent’s responsibility to teach their children to make sound decisions in life. This is not a matter of throwing money at health food educational programs. Forget marketing budgets – we live in a world rife with information. The most important lesson to learn is what Lauren called “Media Literacy,” or put more simply, the ability to sift through plentiful information and make good, smart decisions. If people can’t resist filling themselves with high fructose corn syrup because they see some lifestyle advertising, they’re going to have bigger problems in life than over-consumption of cola.

          • Foodieinfl

            100% agree with Lauren. I’m tired of the “blame game”. Everyone wants to blame someone else for their ‘insert any given issue here’. I watch TV. I’m subjected to numerous ads for unhealthy food products. Do I run out and buy them? No. It’s called self-control. And as far as kids are concerned, it is the parents responsibility to teach children right from wrong, which includes healthy food choices. Why do we feel we must constantly shelter kids from things? They’re not stupid. They know what’s out there. Let’s educate them on making the right choices instead of blaming others for being a negative influence.


    By making contributions to “health” associations Coke is taking a page out of big tobacco’s play book. The sordid relationship between Coke and the Dietetic Association goes way beyond a simple $100k contribution. Coke even provides continuing education courses for dietitians. Amazing such little money can buy such influence.

  • Samantha Lane Phipps

    Errrr, Coca-Cola is PROBABLY pushing their Oh So Ever Healthier Choice of DIET COKE on the American Diabetes Association! Drink your toxins! Where real sugar, consumed in MODERATION will not kill us, Nutrasweet/Aspartmae/Splenda and buddies are highly toxic.

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  • basic questions

    regarding ryan o’malley’s proof that they will not be silenced by coca-cola $… a couple questions: how the heck to navigate to these articles????? ADA has never even tweeted them. and also: what lobbying has ADA done in Washington to reduce soda consumption? or is it all about personal responsibility?

    • Ryan O’Malley

      If you follow @KidsEatRight on twitter you can find the exact tweets for these articles:

      Kids Eat Right ‏@kidseatright (Jan. 23, 2012)Want your kids to have strong bones and muscles? Milk is the key!Kids Eat Right ‏@kidseatright (Mar. 12, 2012)Child or teen drink sweetened soft drinks? Look at these alternatives.
      Also, doing a search for “soda” or “soft drink” on will result in several more examples of how the Academy encourages families and children to reduce and omit consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages.

      • basic questions

        OK thanks for sharing the tweets. Still one has to search for “soda” or “soft drink” on the site. Right now on your homepage there’s a hot tip Say No to Cookie Dough. How about you front page a
        hot tip Say No to Coca-Cola to prove you won’t be silenced? Also you didn’t answer the lobbying question.

  • Joe

    Aspartame in diet pops is not toxic and your body does not treat it as sugar. Diet pop is not really bad at all the only downside is just your not getting anything nutritious from it.

    • anne


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  • Dinier

    Hello everyone. We have 2 daughters ages 9 and 11. Up to this date day have never tried a soda in their life. Lots and lots of “brainwashing” lol when they were babies to teach them why sodas are so bad for you have paid off. It can be done. But it requires parents and adults to be fully committed. I won’t leave my kids’ health up to the marketing campaigns of ANY company.

  • M

    “Please, please, please, don’t bring up the “moderation” angle, or tell
    us that there are no bad foods (drinks). Sugary soft drinks cannot be
    consumed in moderation when they are pushed into our faces with
    $10,000,000,000.00 worth of marketing spend every year.”

    I have consumed 12 soft drinks in the last 5 years. None of them had to do with having coca-cola shoved in my face. I had a stomach and headache, and coca-cola makes me feel better.

    “$780,000 for community recycling – Because it’s not Coke’s fault that 73% of plastic bottles don’t get recycled.”

    It isn’t Coke’s fault, just as it isn’t The NY Times fault that newspapers don’t get recycled, and HP’s fault that ink cartridges don’t get recycled.