Coca-Cola and the CDC: Resources Page

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Milbank Quarterly: Public Meets Private: Conversations Between Coca-Cola and the CDC, by Nason Maani Hessari, Gary Ruskin, Martin McKee and David Stuckler (1.29.19)

Conclusion: “The emails we obtained using FOIA requests reveal efforts by Coca-Cola to lobby the CDC to advance corporate objectives rather than health, including to influence the World Health Organization. Our findings provide a rare example of the ways in which corporate interests attempt to influence public health practitioners ‘in their own words,’ and they demonstrate a need for clearer policies on avoiding partnerships with manufacturers of harmful products.”

News Release, USRTK: Study Shows Coca-Cola’s Efforts to Influence CDC on Diet and Obesity (1.29.19)

The U.S. Right to Know Food Industry Collection, containing Coca-Cola emails with the CDC, is posted in the free, searchable UCSF Food Industry Documents Archive.

CDC FOIA document batches

(1) CDC Bowman Malaspina

(2) CDC Janet Collins

(3) CDC Culbertson Ryan Liburd Galuska

(4) CDC Bowman Stokes 2018

Additional documents

(1) CDC SPIDER letter

(2) Three Barbara Bowman emails

Congresswomen call for investigation

News Release, Congresswoman Chellie Pingree: Pingree, DeLauro to HHS Inspector General: Investigate Coca-Cola’s Lobbying of CDC (2.4.19)

Letter to HHS Inspector General Daniel Levinson (2.4.19)

Salon: Two congresswomen want an investigation into CDC’s crooked relationship with Coca-Cola, by Nicole Karlis (2.5.19)

News coverage of Milbank Quarterly study

Washington Post: Coca-Cola Emails Reveal How Soda Industry Tries to Influence Health Officials, by Paige Winfield Cunningham (1.29.19)

Associated Press: Food industry sway over public health gets new scrutiny, by Candace Choi (1.29.19)

Politico: Coca-Cola Tried to Influence CDC on Research and Policy, New Report States, by Jesse Chase-Lubitz (1.29.19)

CNN: Old emails hold new clues to Coca-Cola and CDC’s controversial relationship,by Jacqueline Howard (1.29.19)

BMJ: Coca-Cola and obesity: study shows efforts to influence US Centers for Disease Control, by Gareth Iacobucci (1.30.19)

Salon: New emails reveal CDC employees were doing the bidding of Coca-Cola, by Nicole Karlis (2.1.19)

Mother Jones: Study: Emails Show How Coca-Cola Tried to Influence Global Health Policy, by Kari Sonde (2.1.19)

Atlanta Constitution Journal: Coke and CDC, Atlanta icons, share cozy relationship, emails show, by Alan Judd (2.6.19)

Related journal and news articles

BMJ: Conflicts of interest compromise US public health agency’s mission, say scientists, by Jeanne Lenzer (10.24.16)

Science: U.S. lawmakers want NIH and CDC foundations to say more about donors, by Jeffrey Mervis (6.29.18)

San Diego Union Tribune: UCSD hires Coke-funded health researcher, by Morgan Cook (9.29.16)

BMJ: US public health agency sued over failure to release emails from Coca-Cola, by Martha Rosenberg (2.28.18)

More reporting on Coca-Cola’s influence

Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health: Science organisations and Coca-Cola’s ‘war’ with the public health community: insights from an internal industry document, by Pepita Barlow, Paulo Serôdio, Gary Ruskin, Martin McKee and David Stuckler (3.14.18)

Critical Public Health: How food companies influence evidence and opinion — straight from the horse’s mouth, by Gary Sacks, Boyd A. Swinburn, Adrian J. Cameron and Gary Ruskin (9.13.17)

Environmental Health News: Coca-Cola’s “war” with the public health community, by Gary Ruskin (4.3.18)

BMJ: Coca-Cola’s secret influence on medical and science journalists, by Paul Thacker (4.5.17)

Politico: Trump’s top health official traded tobacco stock while leading anti-smoking efforts, by Sarah Karlin-Smith and Brianna Ehley (1.30.18)

New York Times: New C.D.C. Chief Saw Coca-Cola as Ally in Obesity Fight, by Sheila Kaplan (7.22.17)

Associated Press: Emails reveal Coke’s role in anti-obesity group, by Candice Choi (11.24.15) and Excerpts from emails between Coke and Global Energy Balance Network

New York Times: Coca-Cola Funds Scientists Who Shift Blame for Obesity Away From Bad Diets, by Anahad O’Connor (8.9.15)

Type Investigations: Firm Pays Government to Challenge Pesticide Research, by Sheila Kaplan (3.1.11)

News articles by U.S. Right to Know staff

The Hill: What is going on at the CDC? Health agency ethics need scrutiny, by Carey Gillam (8.27.16)

Huffington Post: More Coca-Cola Ties Seen Inside U.S. Centers For Disease Control, by Carey Gillam (8.1.16)

Huffington Post: CDC Official Exits Agency After Coca-Cola Connections Come to Light, by Carey Gillam (6.30.16)

Huffington Post: Beverage Industry Finds Friend Inside U.S. Health Agency, by Carey Gillam (6.28.16)

Forbes: The Coca-Cola Network: Soda Giant Mines Connections With Officials And Scientists To Wield Influence, by Rob Waters (7.11.17)

Forbes: Trump’s Pick To Head CDC Partnered With Coke, Boosting Agency’s Longstanding Ties To Soda Giant, by Rob Waters (7.10.17)

U.S. Right to Know is a plaintiff in a FOIA lawsuit regarding CDC

CrossFit and U.S. Right to Know are suing the Department of Health and Human Services seeking records about why the Foundation for the National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC Foundation) and the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health (NIH Foundation) have not disclosed donor information as required by law. (10.4.18)

Coca-Cola/ILSI influence on CDC in China

New York Times: How Chummy Are Junk Food Giants and China’s Health Officials? They Share Offices, by Andrew Jacobs (1.9.19)

Journal of Public Health Policy: Soda industry influence on obesity science and policy in China, by Susan Greenhalgh (1.9.19)

BMJ: Making China safe for Coke: how Coca-Cola shaped obesity science and policy in China, by Susan Greenhalgh (1.9.19)

BMJ: The hidden power of corporations, by Martin McKee, Sarah Steele and David Stuckler (1.9.19)

Study Shows Coca-Cola’s Efforts to Influence CDC on Diet and Obesity

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News Release

For Immediate Release: Tuesday, January 29, 2019
For More Information Contact: Gary Ruskin (415) 944-7350 or Nason Maani Hessari (+44) 020 7927 2879 or David Stuckler (+39) 347 563 4391

Emails between The Coca-Cola Company and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) demonstrate the company’s efforts to influence the CDC for its own benefit, according to a study published today in The Milbank Quarterly. Coca-Cola’s contact with the CDC shows the company’s interest in gaining access to CDC employees, to lobby policymakers, and to frame the obesity debate by shifting attention and blame away from sugar-sweetened beverages.

The study is based on emails and documents obtained via the Freedom of Information Act by U.S. Right to Know, a nonprofit consumer and public health research group. The investigation into Coca-Cola is of particular relevance because the CDC has recently faced criticism for its links to manufacturers of unhealthy products, including those of sugar-sweetened beverages. The emails demonstrate Coca-Cola’s efforts to “advance corporate objectives, rather than health, including to influence the World Health Organization,” the study says.

“It is not the proper role of the CDC to abet companies that manufacture harmful products,” said Gary Ruskin, co-director of U.S. Right to Know. “Congress should investigate whether Coca-Cola and other companies that harm public health are unethically influencing the CDC, and subverting its efforts to protect the health of all Americans.”

“Once again we see the grave risks that arise when public health organisations partner with manufacturers of products that pose a threat to health,” said Martin McKee, professor of European public health at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. “Sadly, as this example, and more recent ones in the United Kingdom show, these risks are not always appreciated by those who should know better.”

The paper concludes: “It is unacceptable for public health organizations to engage in partnerships with companies that have such a clear conflict of interest. The obvious parallel would be to consider the CDC working with cigarette companies and the dangers that such a partnership would pose. Our analysis has highlighted the need for organizations like the CDC to ensure that they refrain from engaging in partnerships with harmful product manufacturers lest they undermine the health of the public they serve.”

The Milbank Quarterly study was co-authored by Nason Maani Hessari, research fellow at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine; Gary Ruskin, co-director of U.S. Right to Know; Martin McKee, professor at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine; and, David Stuckler, professor at Bocconi University.

U.S. Right to Know is currently litigating two FOIA cases to obtain more documents from the CDC. In February 2018, U.S. Right to Know sued the CDC over its failure to comply with its duty under FOIA to provide records in response to six requests about its interactions with The Coca-Cola Company. In October 2018, CrossFit and U.S. Right to Know sued the Department of Health and Human Services seeking records about why the Foundation for the National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC Foundation) and the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health (NIH Foundation) have not disclosed donor information as required by law.

The U.S. Right to Know Food Industry Collection, containing documents from today’s study, is posted in the free, searchable Food Industry Documents Archive hosted by the University of California, San Francisco. For more background about USRTK’s work regarding the CDC and Coca-Cola, see: https://usrtk.org/our-investigations/#coca-cola.

U.S. Right to Know is a nonprofit consumer and public health research group that investigates the risks associated with the corporate food system, and the food industry’s practices and influence on public policy. For more information, see usrtk.org.

The London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) is a world-leading centre for research, postgraduate studies and continuing education in public and global health. LSHTM has a strong international presence with 3,000 staff and 4,000 students working in the UK and countries around the world, and an annual research income of £140 million. LSHTM is one of the highest-rated research institutions in the UK, is partnered with two MRC University Units in The Gambia and Uganda, and was named University of the Year in the Times Higher Education Awards 2016. Our mission is to improve health and health equity in the UK and worldwide; working in partnership to achieve excellence in public and global health research, education and translation of knowledge into policy and practice http://www.lshtm.ac.uk

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