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Emails Show Coke Had an Influential Role in Anti-Obesity Group

Coca-Cola Co. Products Ahead Of Earnings FiguresCoca-Cola Co. Products Ahead Of Earnings Figures
Cans of Coca-ColaPhotograph by Daniel Acker — Bloomberg via Getty Images

Coca Cola had a significant influence on the work of Global Energy Balance Network, an organization led by scientists working to reduce obesity, a new report reveals.

It came out earlier this year that Coke had provided $1.5 million in funding to help start the organization, which GEBN said had no affect on its work. Many found that claim hard to believe, and emails recently attained by the Associated Press between the group’s president and a top Coke executive appear to confirm that skepticism.

According to the AP, the emails show that the beverage retailer, often partially blamed for rising obesity rates, had a hand in choosing GEBN’s leader, helping to shape its mission statement, and recommending articles and videos to post on its website. One email sent by GEBN’s president to an executive at Coke read: “I want to help your company avoid the image of being a problem in peoples’ lives and back to being a company that brings important and fun things to them.”

Coke CEO Muhtar Kent told the AP that there “was not a sufficient level of transparency with regard to the company’s involvement with the Global Energy Balance Network.”

The company added that it had stopped working with the organization and its chief health and science officer in charge of managing Coke’s relationship with GEBN, Rhona Applebaum, has retired.

Coca Cola and the Global Energy Balance Network could not immediately be reached for comment.