New paper: Coca-Cola’s influence on public health conferences and groups

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News Release

For Immediate Release: Thursday, December 1, 2022

For More Information Contact: Gary Ruskin, gary@usrtk.org, +1 415 944 7350

A new peer-reviewed paper in Public Health Nutrition reveals Coca-Cola’s influence on public health conferences and events, speakers, academic institutions and public health groups.

The paper is based on documents uncovered through 22 Freedom of Information requests by the nonprofit investigative research group U.S. Right to Know. The paper is co-authored by USRTK with researchers from the University of Cambridge and Bocconi University.

The paper found that “Coca-Cola exerts direct influence on academic institutions and organizations that convene major public health conferences and events.“

The documents “show Coca-Cola’s close collaboration with the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND)…The Obesity Society (TOS), and the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP).”

The documents show a Coca-Cola vice president stating that, “As you know AAP [American Academy of Pediatrics] is a great partner of ours…”

Read more in Public Health Nutrition: Big Food and Drink sponsorship of conferences and speakers: A case study of one multinational company’s influence over knowledge dissemination and professional engagement

The researchers found, “On multiple occasions, Coca- Cola supported and selected conference speakers without being listed as an official sponsor, and without researchers declaring how their participation was funded.” We found both direct Coca-Cola funding and the use of third-party conduits.

“By sponsoring conferences, Coca-Cola can directly shape what is included and not included in conference proceedings. This is of tremendous value to the company. It can promote its own favoured solutions to obesity and public health nutrition more widely. It can also shape the narrative about what constitutes appropriate interventions.”

The researchers recommend that “There should be robust financial and conflict-of-interest disclosures for public health conferences, not only for the conference organisers, but also for speakers.” And that “Such corporate-sponsored events should be viewed as instruments of industry marketing.”

The co-authors of the paper are: Jónas Atli Gunnarsson, Gary Ruskin, David Stuckler, and Sarah Steele.

For more information about U.S. Right to Know, see our academic papers at https://usrtk.org/academic-work/. For more general information, see usrtk.org.

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