Coke Says It Paid $132.5M To Fund Scientific Research Over A Five-Year Period

Image courtesy of Patrick

After facing backlash and fallout from its funding of the now-defunct Global Energy Balance Network — an anti-obesity organization with a decidedly pro-soda bent — Coca-Cola began disclosing all of its spending in the U.S. on scientific research and health partnerships. Now, nearly six months after first disclosing it had spent $118.5 million in a five-year period, the company has come back with an updated figure of $132.8 million. 

The Associated Press reports that Coca-Cola has doubled back and revised its initial disclosures — unveiled in September 2015 — after conducting an internal investigation.

In all, the company says it spent $132.8 million on scientific research and health partnerships from 2005 to 2010.

The hefty tab went toward funding for groups like the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, the National Park Foundation, a health fair for the National Organization for Mexican American Rights, the American Council for Fitness and the American Diabetes Association.

But it also included payments to health and fitness experts who simply mentioned the company’s products in blog posts or columns, the AP reports.

The company says that the $1 million it gave to the University of Colorado for the creation of the Global Energy Balance has also been returned. However, $507,000 given to the University of South Carolina as part of GEBN has yet to be returned.

GEBN, which stressed the importance of proper diet and exercise in fighting obesity, came out of nowhere in recent years thanks to purportedly no-strings-attached funding from Coca-Cola. However, the group’s motives were questioned when its leadership made public statements that seemed to directly echo beverage industry talking points.

The organization, based at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, claimed that it was the media, and not science, that had linked the obesity problem to high-calorie foods, declaring that there is “virtually no compelling evidence that that, in fact, is the cause.”

When Coke’s involvement in the GEBN became known, the beverage biggie claimed it took a hands-off approach to the group. However, subsequently revealed emails showed that Coca-Cola was heavily involved in shaping the group’s message, likening it to “a political campaign, we will develop, deploy and evolve a powerful and multi-faceted strategy to counter radical organizations and their proponents.”

GEBN officially ceased to exist in December 2015.

In addition to revising its expenditures for research and health organizations, Coca-Cola says it removed several inaccurate listings from its website disclosing the partnerships, the AP reports.

Coke discloses more of its funding on health efforts [The Associated Press]

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