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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UCSF Chemical and Food Industry Libraries Host USRTK Documents

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Update 1/29/19: The University of California, San Francisco added the USRTK Food Industry Collection of emails to its Food Industry Documents Library. The first batch of USRTK emails posted to the database contain emails between the Coca-Cola Company and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including those reported in January 2019 study in the Milbank Quarterly, Public Meets Private: Conversations Between Coca-Cola and the CDC, by Nason Maani Hessari, Gary Ruskin, Martin McKee and David Stuckler. See our Coca-Cola and CDC Resources Page for more information.

UCSF Chemical Industry Documents Library Now Hosts U.S. Right to Know Collection

News Release
For Immediate Release: Thursday, April 19, 2018
For More Information Contact: Gary Ruskin (415) 944-7350

The University of California, San Francisco Industry Documents Library today placed online several collections of agrichemical industry documents, including some acquired and donated by U.S. Right to Know, a consumer and public health watchdog group.

The documents shine light on the public relations, scientific, legislative and regulatory tactics the industry has used to defend its products and profits.

“These documents offer an inside view of agrichemical industry communications about the health and environmental risks of its products,” said Gary Ruskin, co-director of U.S. Right to Know. “We hope they will prove to be a valuable resource for policymakers, investigative journalists and the public at large.”

The documents will be housed in the UCSF Chemical Industry Documents Archive, which is affiliated with the UCSF Truth Tobacco Industry Documents, an archive of 14 million documents created by tobacco companies and their allies.

The documents donated by U.S. Right to Know will be known in the archive as the USRTK Agrichemical Collection. Many of these documents were obtained via federal and state public records requests. In February, the Freedom of the Press Foundation documented growing opposition to the use of public records requests for documents related to the agrichemical industry.

“We want to make these documents available so that others don’t have to go through the trouble and expense of obtaining them,” Ruskin said.

Many of the documents known the “Monsanto Papers” will also be made available.These documents are surfacing in litigation over whether Monsanto’s glyphosate-based herbicide Roundup causes non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

During the last year, these documents have been the subject of dozens of news stories worldwide. In March, two journalists at the French daily Le Monde, Stéphane Foucart and Stéphane Horel, won a European Press Prize Investigative Reporting Award for their work with the Monsanto Papers.

The documents are catalogued, indexed, fully searchable and downloadable so they will be easy to use for policymakers, journalists, academics and the general public. They are available free of charge.

Documents in the USRTK Agrichemical Collection at UCSF have been reported on in many news articles, including:

U.S. Right to Know is a nonprofit consumer and public health organization 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.

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Top Findings of the U.S. Right To Know Investigations

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Since 2015, U.S. Right to Know, a nonprofit consumer and public health watchdog group, has obtained thousands of pages of documents revealing – for the first time – how food and pesticide corporations are working behind the scenes to undermine our nation’s scientific, academic, political and regulatory institutions. Many of these documents are now posted in the free, searchable industry document archives hosted by the University of California, San Francisco. See the USRTK Agrichemical Industry Collectionand the USRTK Food Industry Collection.

U.S. Right to Know provides documents to researchers and media outlets around the world as a tool for transparency, to protect consumers and public health. For a fuller list of our investigative work and reporting about it, see our investigations page and contact us for more information.

New York Times:Food Industry Enlisted Academics in G.M.O. Lobbying War, Emails Show, by Eric Lipton

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

New York Times: Scientists, Give Up Your Emails, by Paul Thacker

New York Times: Traces of Controversial Herbicide Are Found in Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream,by Stephanie Strom

TIME: FDA to Start Testing for Chemicals in Food, by Carey Gillam

TIME: I Won a Historic Lawsuit, But May Not Live to See the Money, by Carey Gillam

BMJ: Coca-Cola’s Influence on Medical and Science Journalists, by Paul Thacker

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

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

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

Island Press: Whitewash: The Story of a Weed Killer, Cancer and the Corruption of Science, by Carey Gillam and presentation to European Parliament Joint Committee

Undark: Corporate-Spun Science Should Not Be Guiding Policy, by Carey Gillam

Washington Post:Coca-Cola emails reveal how soda industry tries to influence health officials, by Paige Winfield Cunningham

Associated Press: Reports: Limit food industry sway on public health matters, by Candice Choi

Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health: Science organisations and Coca-Cola’s ‘war’ with the public health community: insights from an internal industry document, byPepita Barlow,Paulo SerôdioGary Ruskin,Martin McKee,David Stuckler

Journal of Public Health Policy: Case-study of emails exchanged between Coca-Cola and the principal investigators of the ISCOLE, by David Stuckler, Gary Ruskin and Martin McKee

Journal of Public Health Policy:Roundup litigation discovery documents: implications for public health and journal ethics, by Sheldon Krimsky and Carey Gillam

Nature Biotechnology: Standing Up for Transparency, by Stacy Malkan

The Intercept: Trump’s New CDC Chief Championed Partnership with Coca-Cola to Solve Childhood Obesity, by Lee Fang

Los Angeles Times: In Science, Follow the Money If You Can, by Paul Thacker and Curt Furberg

Boston Globe:Harvard Professor Failed to Disclose Monsanto Connection in Paper Touting GMOs, by Laura Krantz

The Guardian:Landmark Lawsuit Claims Monsanto Hid Cancer Danger of Weedkiller for Decades, by Carey Gillam

The Guardian: Monsanto says its pesticides are safe. Now, a court wants to see the proof, by Carey Gillam

The Guardian: Carey Gillam’s reporting about glyphosate

The Guardian:UN/WHO Panel in Conflict of Interest Row over Glyphosate Cancer Risk, by Arthur Neslen

The Guardian: Before you read another health study, check who’s funding the research, by Alison Moodie

San Francisco Chronicle: Major Brands Reverse Course on Genetically Modified Food Labels, by Tara Duggan

WBEZ:Why Didn’t an Illinois Professor Have to Disclose GMO Funding?, by Monica Eng

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

Los Angeles Review of Books: Rounding up the Risks of Big Ag; review of Carey Gillam’s “Whitewash” by Elena Conis

Society of Environmental Journalists: First place Rachel Carson Book Award, Carey Gillam’s “Whitewash”

Bloomberg:How Monsanto Mobilized Academics to Pen Articles Supporting GMOs, by Jack Kaskey

Bloomberg: Emails Show How Food Industry Uses ‘Science’ to Push Soda, by Deena Shanker

CBC:University of SaskatchewanProf Under Fire for Monsanto Ties, by Jason Warick

CBC:U of S Defends Prof’s Monsanto Ties, But Some Faculty Disagree, by Jason Warick

ABC Australia: Leaked Email Exchange Reveals Food Industry Tactics, byLexi Metherell

ABC Australia: The Monsanto Papers broadcast

Le Monde: Monsanto Papers series, by Stéphane Foucartand Stéphane Horel

The Nation:Did Monsanto Ignore Evidence Linking its Weed Killer to Cancer?by Rene Ebersole

Mother Jones: These Emails Show Monsanto Leaning on Professors to Fight the GMO PR War, by Tom Philpott

The Progressive: Flacking for GMOs: How the Biotech Industry Cultivates Positive Media — and Discourages Criticism, by Paul Thacker

Global News: Documents Reveal Canadian Teenager Target of GMO Lobby, by Allison Vuchnich

Critical Public Health:How food companies influence evidence and opinion – straight from the horse’s mouth, by Gary Sacks, Boyd Swinburn, Adrian Cameron and Gary Ruskin

Forbes: The Coca-Cola Network: Soda Giant Mines Connections with Officials and Scientists to Wield Influence, by Rob Waters

STAT: Disney, Fearing a Scandal, Tries to Press Journal to Withdraw Research Paper,by Sheila Kaplan

Environmental Health News:Coca cola war with public health science over obesity, by Gary Ruskin

Environmental Health News:Essay: Monsanto’s ghostwriting and strong-arming threaten sound science — and society, by Sheldon Krimsky

TruthOut: Secret Documents Expose Monsanto’s War on Cancer Scientists

Huffington Post: articles by Carey Gillam

Huffington Post: articles by Stacy Malkan

Common Ground magazine: Are you ready for the new wave of genetically engineered foods?, by Stacy Malkan

EcoWatch: articles by U.S. Right to Know

Ralph Nader: Monsanto and its Promoters vs. Freedom of Information

Freedom of the Press Foundation:How corporations suppress disclosure of public records about themselves, by Camille Fassett

USRTK: Tracking the agrichemical industry propaganda network

To receive updates on the US Right to Know investigation, you can sign up for our newsletter. And please considermaking a donation to keep our investigation cooking.

University of Florida Sued for Failure to Release Public Records on Agrichemical Industry

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News Release
For Immediate Release: Tuesday, July 11, 2017
For More Information Contact: Gary Ruskin (415) 944-7350

Food industry watchdog group U.S. Right to Know filed a lawsuit today to compel the University of Florida to comply with public records requests about the university’s relationship with agrichemical companies that produce genetically engineered seeds and pesticides.

“We are conducting an investigation of the food and agrichemical industries, their front groups and public relations operatives, their ties to universities, and the health risks of their products, said Gary Ruskin, co-director of U.S. Right to Know. “The public has a right to know if and when taxpayer-funded universities and academics are collaborating with corporations to promote their products and viewpoints.”

On September 5, 2015, the New York Times published a front-page article, based on USRTK public records requests, about agrichemical industry ties to public university professors, including one from the University of Florida.

On September 3, 2015, USRTK requested emails sent from and received by the University of Florida via the pro-agrichemical industry listserver “AgBioChatter.” On March 7, 2016, the University of Florida provided 24 pages of emails, and on June 17, 2016 provided an additional 57 pages, but denied much of the request.  USRTK updated and renewed the public records request on July 16, 2017.

In addition, on October 27, 2015, USRTK requested emails about the agrichemical industry sent by Jack M. Payne, senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources at the University of Florida, to employees of the University of Florida Foundation.  On December 15, 2015, the University of Florida provided 42 pages of documents, but denied release of other responsive documents.

“We seek these records to learn more about the University of Florida’s collaboration with the agrichemical industry,” Ruskin said.

Around the time that the New York Times published the University of Florida Foundation’s food and agrichemical industry major donors, the foundation removed these disclosures from its website.

The USRTK investigation of the food and agrichemical industries has been covered in many news outlets, including the New York TimesBoston Globe, BMJ, the GuardianLe MondeSTATCBC and Mother Jones.

USRTK’s complaint for writ of mandamus against the University of Florida Board of Trustees is available at: https://usrtk.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/Petition-For-Writ-Of-Mandamus.pdf.  The complaint was filed in the Circuit Court of the Eighth Judicial Circuit, Alachua County, Florida.  The case is US Right to Know v. The University of Florida Board of Trustees.

More information about USRTK’s transparency litigation is at: https://usrtk.org/our-litigation/.

U.S. Right to Know is a nonprofit organization that investigates the risks associated with the corporate food system, and the food industry’s practices and influence on public policy. We promote the free market principle of transparency – in the marketplace and in politics – as crucial to building a better, healthier food system.

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Gary Ruskin, Co-Founder and Co-Director

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Gary first started working on food issues in 1998.  In 2000, he helped to build the first national coalition against the marketing and sale of soda and junk food in schools.  In 2003, he organized a Childhood Obesity Prevention Agenda for states and schools, endorsed by organizations across the political spectrum.  In 2004, he organized a global effort to ban the marketing of junk food to children. For fourteen years, he directed the Congressional Accountability Project, which opposed corruption in the U.S. Congress. For nine years, he was executive director and co-founder (with Ralph Nader) of Commercial Alert, which opposed the commercialization of every nook and cranny of our lives and culture.  In 2012, Gary was campaign manager for California Right to Know (Proposition 37), a statewide ballot initiative for labeling of genetically engineered food in California.  He was also director of the Center for Corporate Policy. Over the years, he has tangled with many corporate lobbyists, including the infamous Jack Abramoff.  He has often been quoted in major newspapers across the country and has appeared scores of times on national TV news programs. His articles have been published in the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, The Nation, The Progressive, Mothering, Multinational Monitor, the Journal of Public Health Policy, Journal of Epidemiology and Community HealthCritical Public Health, Environmental Health News and many others. He received his undergraduate degree in religion from Carleton College, and a master’s degree in public policy from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.  He is also the father of a 12 year-old daughter and 1 year-old son.

Contact Gary: gary@usrtk.org
Follow Gary on Twitter: @GaryRuskin

Read Gary Ruskin’s work: 

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, David Stuckler (3.14.2018)

Journal of Public Health Policy Complexity and conflicts of interest statements: a case-study of emails exchanged between Coca-Cola and the principal investigators of the International Study of Childhood Obesity, Lifestyle and the Environment (ISCOLE), by David Stuckler, Martin McKee and Gary Ruskin (11.27.17)

Critical Public Health How food companies influence evidence and opinion – straight from the horse’s mouth, by Gary Sacks, Boyd Swinburn, Adrian Cameron, and Gary Ruskin (5.18.17)

Environmental Health News Coca Cola’s war with the public health community: An Inside look at Coca Cola’s manipulation masquerading as science (4.3.2018)