Sponsorship of National Health Organizations by Two Major Soda Companies

Am J Prev Med. 2017 Jan;52(1):20-30. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2016.08.010. Epub 2016 Oct 10.


Introduction: Obesity is a pervasive public health problem in the U.S. Reducing soda consumption is important for stemming the obesity epidemic. However, several articles and one book suggest that soda companies are using their resources to impede public health interventions that might reduce soda consumption. Although corporate sponsorship by tobacco and alcohol companies has been studied extensively, there has been no systematic attempt to catalog sponsorship activities of soda companies. This study investigates the nature, extent, and implications of soda company sponsorship of U.S. health and medical organizations, as well as corporate lobbying expenditures on soda- or nutrition-related public health legislation from 2011 to 2015.

Methods: Records of corporate philanthropy and lobbying expenditures on public health legislation by soda companies in the U.S. during 2011-2015 were found through Internet and database searches.

Results: From 2011 to 2015, the Coca-Cola Company and PepsiCo were found to sponsor a total of 95 national health organizations, including many medical and public health institutions whose specific missions include fighting the obesity epidemic. During the study period, these two soda companies lobbied against 29 public health bills intended to reduce soda consumption or improve nutrition.

Conclusions: There is surprisingly pervasive sponsorship of national health and medical organizations by the nation's two largest soda companies. These companies lobbied against public health intervention in 97% of cases, calling into question a sincere commitment to improving the public's health. By accepting funding from these companies, health organizations are inadvertently participating in their marketing plans.

MeSH terms

  • Carbonated Beverages*
  • Food Industry / economics*
  • Lobbying*
  • Organizations, Nonprofit / economics
  • Organizations, Nonprofit / ethics*
  • Societies, Medical / economics
  • Societies, Medical / ethics*
  • United States