The war on soda rages on, with consumers continuing their steady migration away from carbonated soft drinks. But the industry isn’t going down without a fight. They say the best defense is a good offense, and it seems Big Soda has adopted that old adage in its fight for survival. A recent study conducted by Center for Science in the Public Interest reveals that collectively, The Coca-Cola Company, PepsiCo and the American Beverage Association (ABA) have spent at least $106 million since 2009 to combat public health initiatives encouraging consumers to reduce their sugary drinks consumption.
“Like the tobacco industry before it, the soda industry is spending heavily and spending strategically and has mostly been successful at blocking federal, state, and local public health measures aimed at reducing soda-related disease,” wrote CSPI director of health promotion policy Jim O’Hara. “However it’s unclear whether the industry will be able to preserve its winning streak when it has to fend off a greater number of soda tax or warning label proposals simultaneously.”
CSPI’s analysis found that nearly $52 million of the soda industry’s efforts were spent challenging federal public health initiatives while the bulk of the remainder was spent at the state level. That includes successful $16.7 million spent in Washington State to overturn a ballot measure that would have imposed a 2-cent per 12-ounce tax on sugary drinks as well as $15.2 million spent in New York State on a handful of proposed legislations, including former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg’s widely publicized attempt at capping the size of sodas at 16 ounces.
But not all of the soda industry’s money spent has paid off. In November of 2014 voters in Alameda County overcame the ABA’s dollars to become the first city in the United States to impose a tax on sugary beverages.
CSPI’s study comes on the heels of a controversy surrounding the Coca-Cola-backed non-profit Global Energy Balance Network, whose agenda centered around the premise that America’s obesity epidemic could be attributed more to people’s lack of exercise than their daily calorie count. Coca-Cola Chairman and CEO Muhtar Kent later apologized in an op-ed published in The Wall Street Journal, conceding that the way Coke “engaged the public health and scientific communities to tackle the global obesity epidemic that is plaguing our children, our families and our communities is not working.”