Coca-Cola’s £20m anti-obesity drive criticised

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Coca-Cola has been criticised for its £20m anti-obesity campaign planned for the summer.

Coca-Cola will urge thousands of families to participate in free sports sessions, such as Zumba, rounders and tennis, as from Friday as part of its Zero ParkLives campaign.

However, nutrition campaigners have slammed the company for using the campaign in an attempt to shift attention from the responsibility of the company for the obesity epidemic in Britain.

Public health officials have previously warned that children are consuming 40% more sugar than the recommended limit. Public Health England claimed that soft drinks can be blamed for this as it is the biggest source of sugar in the diets of children aged between four and 18.

The National Diet and Nutrition Survey found that drinks such as Coca-Cola, which contains nine teaspoons of sugar in each can, makes up 30% of the added sugar consumption in those aged between 11 and 18.

Cardiologist and Science Director for the campaign group Action on Sugar, Dr Aseem Malhotra, has branded the Coca-Cola parks scheme as ‘a really disingenuous stunt.’ Dr Malhotra stated that the company is trying to take attention away from their role in creating an obesity epidemic which has been boosted by the increase in calorie consumption.

He stated that the ‘obscene’ attempts by companies to link their brand with active lifestyles may encourage the public to eat more unhealthy products, incorrectly making the assumption that tiny amounts of exercise will balance it all out.

The Coca-Cola Zero ParkLives project is the newest spin-off to the controversial ‘Public Health Responsibility Deal’ whereby the food and drink industries are allowed to regulate themselves.

During February the food industry lobby had managed to obtain several meetings with ministers, while health campaigners have been avoided.

Coca-Cola stated that in line with their marketing code, the programme will not be targeting children under the age of 12. It is set to offer free sports sessions and coaching for young adults and families. The project will see activities such as hula-hooping, t’ai chi and basketball in Newcastle, Birmingham and London. The company has plans to expand the project to other cities in the future.

The General Manager of Coca-Cola Great Britain, Jon Woods, said that they are aware that for companies to grow in their market, they need to remain close to their customer base. He said that obesity is a huge concern for their consumers as 61% of adults and 33% of children are obese or overweight. He said the company would like to play a more productive role in finding solutions to this weight problem.

He further added that in the past the company would have turned away from this, but is now taking a more proactive stance. The task at hand is about the intake and usage of calories and a balance should be found.

Image Credit: Omer Wazir

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