June 22nd, 2012
Study: How Soda Companies’ Social Responsibility Campaigns Are Harming Your Health
By Alexandra Sifferlin
In the battle against obesity, public health experts and politicians have recently made sugary soda Public Enemy No. 1. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg proposed a citywide ban on all large-sized sugared beverages, and other community leaders are following suit.
The soda industry has fought back, arguing that soda is not exclusively to blame for America’s obesity problem, and that soft drinks have been unfairly singled out. “Consumption of added sugars is going down,” Karen Hanretty, vice president of public affairs for the American Beverage Association (ABA), told CNN in April. “Soda consumption has declined, even as obesity has increased. To say that sugar is solely responsible for obesity, doesn’t make sense.”
But the soda industry’s efforts to burnish its image run much deeper than PR statements — in ways the public may not even realize, say media and public-health experts writing in the journal PLoS Medicine. In their new paper, one of a series of reports called “Big Food” that examines the activities and influence of the food and beverage industry, they shine light on the elaborate and expensive corporate social responsibility (CSR) campaigns that they say major soda manufacturers are using to dodge public health scrutiny.