Candy and soda are better known as guilty pleasures than elements of a healthy diet, but the folks at Coca-Cola would really like the world’s politicians to stop linking cola with obesity, which has gotten to be so large a target it arguably could be known as Public Enemy No. 1.
The word in Ottawa is that the city is planning an outreach to its residents to help them make better health decisions, encouraging them to eat better and exercise more. Coca-Cola Canada execs are so wary of the coming effort that at least four of them have sent the same letter to the mayor to let him know that the company “strongly opposes any program that uses taxpayer dollars to unfairly target our products and mislead consumers,” the Ottawa Citizen reports.
“We expect Ottawa Public Health, as a public institution, to be a source of neutral and unbiased information for consumers,” the letters went on, pointing out that obesity in Canada had grown while consumption of sugared drinks had gone down.
But the city is still planning to step up the messaging its already had for some time to help residents make better decisions, the paper reports. “We’re not targeting them,” said councilor Mathieu Fleury, who sits on the health board. “They’ve obviously targeted themselves.”
Still, Coke is trying to be pro-active at a time when colas are being attacked for not being healthy across the globe. In New York City, Mayor Michael Bloomberg recently announced plans to ban portions of sugary drinks larger than 16 ounces from venues such as movie theaters and convenience stores.
The National Restaurant Association, the New York State Restaurant Association, and the American Beverage Association are all naturally fighting Bloomberg’s plan (which does not require approval by the city council or voters). They received odd backup in July, when the NRA said the idea wasn’t just about soda. "It is about an anti-competitive, discriminatory rule that limits restaurant operations and practices,” said the NRA in a statement, according to Supermarket News. “It involves a variety of beverages and could even impact beverages that are exempt from the ban because the liability may force some operators to not sell anything in a cup larger than 16 ounces. It makes no sense from either a health standpoint or a commerce standpoint."
Politicians in London went in a different direction. Even though Coca-Cola and McDonald’s were shelling out a boatload of cash to put their names on the Olympic Games, the Assembly there tried to get the pair thrown out as sponsors because they weren’t sending the message of healthiness that the Assembly wanted to project. Coca-Cola Co. Chief Executive Officer Muhtar Kent was, of course, outraged, and told Fox Business Network, “I don't think banning anything is the answer. It's about how can we do better collectively? And the Olympics is a great platform that brings the world together to also raise awareness of important issues for the world.”
What Kent says is true, but it doesn’t appear that the letter writers are going to get a rest anytime soon.