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Coca-Cola Cuts Sketchy Deals With Diet Experts to Say Soda Is Healthy

Eater logo Eater 3/16/2015 Khushbu Shah
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The company pays health authorities to say soda is good for you.

Coca-Cola is turning to shady tactics in an attempt to convince people that soda is healthy. According to the Associated Press, the soda company is working with "fitness and nutrition experts" to suggest that its product is a "healthy treat." They ask experts — who are seen as "trusted authorities" — to work lines about "a mini-can of Coke or small soda as a [good] snack idea" into articles on nutrition blogs and even in major newspapers. In their bios, these experts are listed as a "consultant" to food companies, including Coca-Cola and some even add that "ideas are expressed as their own."

The Dietitians for Professional Integrity is calling for "sharper lines to be drawn" between sponsored content and genuine opinions.

Kelly McBride, a media ethics teacher at The Poynter Institute, says that this is completely misleading: "This is an example of opaque sponsored content." A spokesperson for Coca-Cola simply compares these articles to "product placement deals a company might have with a TV show": "We have a network of dietitians we work with... every big brand works with bloggers or has paid talent." The company adds that it wants to "help people make decisions that are right for them" and that working with health experts "helps bring context to the latest facts and science" around its sodas. While the Dietitians for Professional Integrity is calling for "sharper lines to be drawn" between sponsored content and genuine opinions, those who wrote pieces recommending Coke stand by their decisions.

Regardless of Coca-Cola's tactics, soda is facing a serious backlash across the country due to its affect on health. In November, Berkeley, Calif. became the first city to pass a tax on soda. The new law puts a one-cent-per-ounce tax on all sugary drinks. Restaurants like Wendy's are removing sodas from its kids' meals options, and soda companies themselves have announced plans to cut the number of calories in sugary drinks.

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