In mid-March 2015 the Associated Press released a report on the latest public relations campaign of corporate beverage colossus Coca-Cola that enlists numerous health experts to publicly tout the notion that drinking Coke might be part of a “healthy diet.” Articles penned by these writers appeared in February on nutrition blogs and other sites including major newspapers in conjunction with American Heart Month.
AP’s detailed report was picked up and reported on almost exclusively in alternative and foreign news media outlets, including RT.com, Think Progress, and Natural Society, with corporate media largely overlooking the revelations of Coke’s public relations campaign.
The AP story also found that many other large food and beverage corporations, such as PepsiCo, have been subsidizing health and diet opinion leaders to promote consumption of its Frito-Lay and Tostitos-branded snacks as healthful on local television stations. Similarly, Kellogg and General Mills have offered continuing education classes for dietitians, subsidized studies that exaggerate the nutritional features of their food products, and provided newsletters for health experts.
Candice Choi, “Coke a Good Snack? Health Experts Who Work with Coke Say So,” Associated Press, March 16, 2015, http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/U/US_HEALTHY_COKES.
“Coca-Cola Pays Health Experts to Suggest Soda as a Healthy Snack,” RT.com, March 17. 2015, http://rt.com/usa/241317-coca-cola-health-experts-paid/.
Anthony Cucciardi, “Coca-Cola Caught Paying ‘Health Leaders’ to Say Soda is Healthy Snack,” Natural Society, March 17, 2015, http://naturalsociety.com/coca-cola-caught-paying-health-leaders-to-say-soda-is-healthy-snack/.
Sam P.K. Collins, “Coca-Cola is Working Hard to Rebrand Soda as a Healthy Snack,” Think Progress, March 16, 2015, http://thinkprogress.org/health/2015/03/16/3634128/coca-cola-media-blitz/.
Student Researcher: Zachary Kelberman (Florida Atlantic University)
Faculty Evaluator: James F. Tracy (Florida Atlantic University)