Global drinks maker pledges measures in 200 countries and promises end to advertising aimed at children under 12
Coca-Cola has announced plans to help tackle obesity by displaying the calorie counts of its fizzy drinks more visibly and promoting regular exercise.
The measures, which will cover more than 200 countries, are part of the strategy of the world’s most valuable brand’ to improve its reputation among consumers amid concerns that its sugar-laden carbonated drinks are helping to fuel the global obesity epidemic.
The Atlanta-based company is also ending advertising aimed at children under 12 around the world, a measure it implemented in the UK in 2009, and has pledged to offer low- or zero-calorie drinks in every country it operates in.
“We want to be part of the solution,” Coca-Cola’s chairman and chief executive, Muhtar Kent, said in an interview on CBS on Wednesday.
He did not specify how the company might promote healthier life-styles, but said: “We all know that taking in calories is more fun than spending calories and we want to make spending calories also a little bit of fun.
“We believe that this will begin to make a difference [and] create awareness around the importance of active, healthy, lifestyles.”
In a statement setting out the company’s plans, Kent described obesity as “a global societal problem” and “today’s most challenging health issue, affecting nearly every family and community across the globe”.
The move, which coincides with the 127th anniversary of the company, comes after Coca-Cola broadcast its first advert to mention obesity, earlier this year – which was believed the first in the history of food and beverage advertising to address the issue directly.
Adverts were broadcast during the US Superbowl and during Coronation Street.
Recent research suggested that sugary drinks caused people to put on weight irrespective of other behaviour.
A decades-long study involving more than 33,000 Americans suggested that drinking sugary beverages interacted with genes that affected weight and enhanced a person’s risk of obesity beyond factors of heredity.
Tam Fry, spokesman for the National Obesity Forum, welcomed Coca-Cola’s plans, particularly on calorie labelling, which he said was often unclear and confusing to consumers.
Fry said the company had made significant improvements in the calorie content of its product line in recent years, by, for example, using a natural zero-calorie sweetener derived from the stevia plant instead of sugar.
He said: “It’s Coke becoming more and more responsible because consumers are becoming more and more vociferous about health concerns.
“It’s part of their philosophy that they’re becoming more understanding of the problem of obesity and recognising that a lot of people put it down to carbonated drinks.
“[The drinks] were awful because they used to have only one high-sugar product but over the last 20 to 30 years they’ve been moving in the right direction and now have a number of low- and zero-calorie drinks, like Diet Coke and Coke Zero.”
Fry said it was difficult to demand the company ended production of standard red Coke – a 16-ounce bottle of which contains 210 calories – when it remained the backbone of its global business.
But he said the company was partially responding to consumer trends in the UK that suggested lower calorie alternatives were the growing market.
“At the Olympic Games [Coca-Cola] did market research on the drinks people bought, which was taken on board by the company. Diet Coke, Coke Zero and water accounted for 73% of their sales, with red Coke only making up 23%.”
Coca-Cola sells all types of non-alcoholic drinks, from fizzy pop and sports beverages to tea, coffee, juice and energy drinks. About a quarter (800) of its products are described as low- or no-calorie drinks.
Our politicians may have found a subtle way of making impossible to report comments, distorted facial expressions
?A new trend, perhaps: a cunning form of off-the-record political shorthand. Chatting to Boris Johnson briefly, I mentioned an extremely well-known member of the cabinet. He gave me a very Borisovian gurn, to indicate disapproval, even contempt. But there’s nothing to write down, so it can’t be used, or proved if it were challenged.
David Cameron held his annual summer party for the hacks this week, and we asked if he was going to any Olympic events. “I might have to go to [an event] with [one particular world leader].” Again, the look of dislike was perfectly obvious but impossible to record – probably vital in the new Twitter world, where nothing is ever spoken in private.
?The last word, I think, on Ken Dodd. Last week I mentioned the fact that the story – chap visits another chap and remarks on a picture of Ken Dodd on his desk, which turns out to be the second chap’s wife – had actually happened to Prof Bill Jones of Liverpool.
Guido Casale writes and says that he heard the same tale about 40 years ago, though not about Prof Jones. He thinks it’s an urban legend, like the granny on the roof rack. The widow of Prof Jones’s colleague says she has no recollection of the event – though I’m not surprised: what loving husband would tell their wife she’d been mistaken for Ken Dodd?
My theory is that there are two types of urban myth. There are those that never happened and could never happen, such as the vanishing hitchhiker (man gives a lift to young woman and delivers her home. Next day he finds her pullover. So he takes it back to the house, where her parents tell him that their daughter was killed by a car, a year ago, at the spot where he picked her up).
Then there are those that might well have occurred. The story is good enough to be passed around, but it changes every time, so entirely different versions are being told in Penzance and Thurso. When I worked on a book about paranormal beliefs, I often found it helpful to strip stories down to their essentials. “Man mistakes picture of middle-aged woman for middle-aged man” is not particularly surprising.
Likewise this: the other day I was waiting at the bus stop outside the care home where my parents live. There was a man there who looked similar to my old colleague Rupert Cornwell (he’s the half-brother of John le Carré), whom I’d known in parliament and in the US, where he lives with his American wife. I did a sort of “that bloke looks awfully like Rupert” puzzled frown, and could see him thinking: “He looks just like Simon Hoggart, only with less hair.” Of course it was him, and we were astounded by the coincidence. Arthur Koestler would have been thrilled beyond reason. But say: “Two men from the London area have elderly parents in the same London care home,” and it isn’t startling at all.
?We went to see “the” Olympic torch – one of hundreds – go through our local streets this week. It was a festival of sponsorship. First there was an eccentric chap on a bike, decorated like a Heath Robinson contraption, followed by five police motorbikes, possibly in case a terrorist in the five-deep crowd decided that the whimsical machine offended their religion. Then the buses: Coca-Cola, Lloyds Bank and Samsung, the last filled with gyrating women as if in a Bangkok bar. Dozens more policemen, ambulances, and random cyclists, then near the end a little girl running with the torch, and looking tired out, poor thing.
Given that the biggest sponsors of all have been the British taxpayers, I waited for our sponsorship bus, filled with nubile dancing lovelies, but in vain. And if Coca-Cola can ban Pepsi and Visa can bar MasterCard, presumably we might stop foreigners from buying tickets. But I gather it doesn’t work like that.
?Hungry and in a hurry, I went into a McDonalds, a multimillion- pound Olympic sponsor, for the first time in many years this week. I had a cheeseburger with fries. The fries were quite nice, as I remembered. But the cheeseburger was, simply, vile. A slimy patty of rendered meat substance topped with a slimy, lurid orange covering of processed dairy-style product. And the bun tasted like mashed up Kleenex. It made even Burger King and KFC seem like a gourmet experience. Still, I know now – never again.
?We bought a car this week, a second-hand Skoda. The brand used to be a joke but now tops most of those tables for owner-satisfaction and so on. If they get rid of the horrible badge, apparently showing a cockerel being strangled, we could even flaunt it. We went to two showrooms. At one a shy and diffident chap helped us, and willingly admitted the car’s faults and omissions. At the other we had the used car dealer that tradition demands, all hustle and shove. Naturally we went with the first.
I had hoped we could go for a top-of-the-line Skoda, the wonderfully named Superb. I wanted to say things like “I’ll just run you to the station, in the Superb,” or “It’s a two-hour trip, but only an hour forty in our Superb,” or even, “I’ll have James bring the Superb round to the front portico.” But it’s too big for our garage space.
?I’ve been reading an excellent book by Piers Brendon, Eminent Elizabethans, which, unlike the BBC’s weird choices, focuses on just four people: Murdoch, Thatcher, Prince Charles and Mick Jagger. By bringing a real historian’s discipline to the task, Brendon has unearthed lots of new material, including the first logged double entendre by Margaret “Will this gun jerk me off?” Thatcher.
In 1961, with a minor government job, she devoured all the raw data she could find, and brought the House down with her line, “And I have the latest red-hot figure!”
The Childrens’ Food Campaign says chance to create a positive health legacy from London 2012 has been squandered
Health campaigners are urging the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to ban junk food and fizzy drink brands from future sporting sponsorship deals in a critical new report which says the committee has squandered the chance to create a positive health legacy from the London 2012 Games.
The Obesity Games report, published by The Childrens’ Food Campaign (CFC), found that corporate sponsorship accounts for less than 10% of the total funding for the London 2012 Games, while fast food sponsors contribute only about 2% of the IOC income. Yet the major sponsors Coca-Cola, McDonald’s and Cadbury are given an unrivalled platform to promote their unhealthy brands and products, it says.
The CFC is calling for the IOC to help tackle rising obesity levels by setting conditions on promoting healthy eating in their sponsorship deals and for junk food brands to be excluded.
The findings will trigger fresh criticism of the stranglehold on food and drink at the Games held by sponsors Cadbury, McDonald’s (its largest restaurant in the world is in the Olympic Park) and Coca-Cola, which is expected to serve 23m soft drinks at the Games due to its near-monopoly at Olympic venues.
CFC co-ordinator Malcolm Clark said: “The Olympics have become a celebration of ‘big’. For the junk food companies who sponsor the Games, that means big restaurants, big audiences, big brand value, big profits. But for children that could also mean bigger waistlines and bigger health problems later in life.”
He said the IOC could decide to cut out the top-tier category of food and soft drink partners entirely and lose little more than 2% of its total income.
Coca-Cola said: “As one of the longest, continuous sponsors of the Olympic movement, we are proud that we are able to use our sponsorship to enable millions of people to experience the Games and believe we have a valid role to play. As well as sharing expertise, our financial support helps to stage London 2012, and without the support of the presenting partners the Olympic torch relay would not be able to take the magic of the Games to people in their own communities.
“People consume many different foods and drinks, so no one single food or drink alone is responsible for people being overweight or obese. We believe all of our drinks can be enjoyed as part of an active, healthy lifestyle that includes a sensible, balanced diet and regular physical activity.”
McDonald’s said: “Sponsorship is essential to the successful staging of the Olympic and Paralympic Games and we’re proud of our involvement with London 2012.”
Ian Barber, the director of communications at the Advertising Association, said: “Much analysis has been done about advertising’s link with our obesity problem. Prof David Buckingham – an independent expert – sums it up when he says, ‘the impact, if any, is small’.”
How much are companies pouring into sponsoring London 2012? We’ve compiled the first list of how much they are spending
• Get the data
• Data journalism and data visualisations from the Guardian
Who is footing the London 2012 sponsorship bill?
Thanks to the London 2012 site, we know who the sponsors are – but what we haven’t had so far is what the individual deals are worth. This is, says London 2012, “confidential commercial information”. So, we’ve been forced to put it together ourselves.
Based on our reporting, this is how it comes out:
It’s not straightforward, of course. There are several different types of sponsors. Firstly, there’s the worldwide sponsors – these are the 11 big companies such as Coca Cola, who sponsor the games to the tune of around $100m through the International Olympic Committee. They include Dow’s controversial sponsorship of the wrap that will surround the stadium. Also, some of the IOC worldwide numbers include more than one game. Then there are the London 2012 ‘tier one’ partners, such as Adidas, BT and BMW, who each pay around £40m – there are seven of these. That’s followed by anotehr seven “supproters” who pay £20m and then 28 “suppliers” who pay around £10m
Meanwhile, we report today that spome of the sponsors are coming under pressure over their tax breaks:
Visa is coming under increasing pressure to publicly waive tax breaks handed to major Olympic sponsors after two of the biggest backers of the Games promised to pay the UK Exchequer. McDonald’s and Coca Cola both said yesterday that they would decline relief handed to the 11 “worldwide” sponsors of the Games, meaning that the profits made from selling burgers and fizzy drinks to spectators in the Olympic park will now be taxed
The row over Olympic taxes comes against a backdrop of the bill for London 2012 being funded by around £1bn of sponsorship, which includes £700m raised locally by the organising committee and a further £700m contribution from sponsorship and broadcast revenues from the IOC.
Interestingly, it might not even be that effective for most of the sponsors. Brand Republic reported recently that many people have no idea who’s sponsoring the Olympics – for instance, 16% of those surveyed think Tescos is a sponsor, which it’s not. Similarly, Canon, Carlsberg, Sky and mobile phone company Orange were all erroneously cited as sponsors.
Have we got the numbers right? Let us know what you think – and what you can do with the data.
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Sushi and goat curry will sit alongside fish and chips – and McDonald’s – as organisers promise quality and value for money
Offering everything from goat curry to frosted cupcakes, South African barbeque to fish and chips, the spectators’ menus to be unveiled next week aim to cast the London Games as a festival of food.
In an attempt to promote Britain’s eclectic culinary culture alongside the dominant Olympic sponsors – McDonald’s, Coca-Cola and Cadbury – the organisers are preparing to lay on meals and snacks for the holders of almost 9m tickets, including pasties from Cornwall, yorkshire pudding, bacon butties and “butchers’ bangers”, as well as more modern British and international tastes from sushi to salt beef.
To sell fish and chips, the London organising committee (Locog) had to get a special dispensation from McDonald’s, the official restaurant sponsor, which is expected to provide 10% of meals served at the Games. Under its deal with the International Olympic Committee, t he fast-food chain had the sole rights to sell chips or french fries. It allows Locog’s caterers to sell fish and chips, but not chips on their own.
“Out of the 205 nations sending athletes, 195 are represented in the six Olympic boroughs and that means British food is world food,” said Jan Matthews, head of catering at Locog. “We are trying to make it feel like a food festival and we have walked round Borough market [a London gastronomic market] several times to try and get that feel. There will be fruit barrows and stalls where you can buy different types of olives.”
British cheese, lobsters from the Channel Islands and crab from Shetland have been lined up. British sparkling wine.
“While sport will take centre stage, the ‘Olympic experience’ that people will take away will be built from and influenced by a multitude of factors,” declares the Olympic food vision document. “And one of the biggest will be food and drink.”
Products from Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Cadbury and Heineken will be the only branded food and drink on sale. A draft menu seen by the Guardian suggests there will be a strong American feel in parts of the park with baby back ribs for £12, bottles of Coke for £2.50, as well as muffins, pizza and wraps. A sandwich and a soft drink “meal deal” would cost £5.70.
With visitors to the main Olympic park expected to stay an average of eight hours, that means families could spend £50 on food in a day. “We have been fastidious about the food representing value for money,” said Matthews. “We are offering quality food.”
Basic environmental and ethical standards have been set, but the original aspiration to serve largely organic produce has not been met.
Meat reared to RSPCA-monitored welfare standards will be used in the athletes’ village and media centre, where more expensive animals can be used because chefs will be on hand to use the whole carcass. Elsewhere, the meat will be Red Tractor certified, which does not necessarily mean free range. Bananas, tea, coffee, sugar and oranges will be fairtrade. All shelled eggs will be free range and all fish sustainably sourced.
There are hopes the application of the standards may have a lasting effect on British catering.
“Something as influential as the Games and the exposure the food strategy attracts means there has been a big conversation around catering standards,” said Kath Dalmeny, policy director at Sustain, a campaign group for better food and farming who sat on the Olympics food advisory group.
“If you eat in a company canteen, at an event, at a museum, at a tourist attraction, everywhere you turn you are being fed by the caterers who are doing the Olympics. Some of them are now coming up to scratch and are realising that issues like free range and fairtrade are important.”
The £15m facility in north Lincolnshire will use advanced technology to integrate the processing of both plastic bottles and polymers
A major breakthrough in the challenge of recycling mixed plastics – a long-standing issue for consumers – has been made with the opening of a new national recycling plant.
The £15m facility in north Lincolnshire – a joint venture recycling operation between Coca-Cola Enterprises and ECO Plastics – was opened on Thursday by environment minister Lord Taylor, and will be one of the first to use advanced technology to integrate the processing of both plastic bottles and polymers.
It will enable an additional 15,000 tonnes of rigid plastic packaging such as tubs, pots and trays to be recycled every year.
The government’s waste advisory body Wrap has provided a £1.15m loan towards the development of the facility – an extension of the existing bottle sorting and processing facility – and an important step towards building much-needed reprocessing infrastructure for rigid plastics.
Recycling of plastic bottles began in earnest 10 years ago and about 50% of all bottles are now recycled. But other plastics, such as dark plastic ready meal trays, yoghurt pots and protective film, have proved a challenge to recycle, not helped by varying local recycling facilities and compounded by confusing consumer advice to householders. There are also strict rules on re-use, which means that packaging outside food cannot be recycled to provide packaging for food products.
Marcus Gover, director of closed loop recycling at Wrap, said: “It is important that rigid plastic packaging is effectively recycled as if not carried out properly rigid plastics can contaminate the highly valuable plastic bottle waste stream – which would not be good for the economy or the environment. As the UK’s capacity to process non-bottle plastics packaging grows, it will ultimately become viable for local authorities to routinely collect non-bottle plastics packaging from households at kerbside.”
Wrap has also drawn up new guidance for local authorities on the recycling of plastics that will be sent out next month.
Last month’s budget set a new target for plastic recycling of 42% (up from 24%) by 2017, and earlier this month minister Lord Taylor of Holbeach criticised the continued disposal of plastic bottles and other plastic products to landfill as “shameful”. He said 240,000 tonnes of plastic bottles were last year sent to landfill by households with access to kerbside plastic recycling collection – equivalent to nearly half of all bottles used. The plastic bottles sent to landfill would have been worth around £91m if they had been recycled.
Coca-Cola has already pledged to recycle all clear plastic bottles disposed of at the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, of which it is one of the major sponsors. The recycled materials will be used to make 80m new Coke bottles.
Gover admitted that recycling plastic film – the “final frontier” in plastics recycling, is one of the hardest challenges of all, as it can get caught in machinery. But in September 2011 Wrap research proved it was technically possible, commercially viable and environmentally best to recycle it. It is working with retailers such as the Co-op and Sainsbury’s to collect bread bags, clingfilm and more at the front of stores and recycle back to materials used in store.
Lord Taylor said of the new move: “I’m delighted to see this investment in ECO Plastics. It will increase the amount of plastic that gets recycled by 15,000 tonnes, helping to protect the environment and save businesses money by cutting back on their use of raw materials. The recycling industry is growing and we’re working to help companies gain a foothold in this exciting new marketplace which will help us become a zero-waste economy.”
Activity toys with Happy Meals and vouchers for sport sessions part of fast food giant’s drive to dispel unhealthy image
In the wake of a fresh wave of criticism over its involvement as an Olympics sponsor, McDonald’s has unveiled a large-scale promotional push that it claims will make children healthier.
The fast-food giant plans to give away 9m “activity toys” with its Happy Meals aimed at children as part of a “Mascotathon” campaign. The gadgets will measure how many steps or jumps the recipient makes in a day, with children encouraged to log on to an online game that translates their actions into energy for Games mascots Wenlock and Mandeville.
A second wave of activity during the Games will give away vouchers for free sport sessions as part of a marketing strategy that will aim to counter criticism of its role.
The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges this week demanded “bold and tough” measures to curb childhood obesity, including a ban on firms such as McDonald’s and Coca-Cola from sponsoring sporting events such as the Olympics.
As a top-tier International Olympic Committee sponsor, McDonald’s will provide the only branded food in the Olympic Park and the Athlete’s Village, including its largest restaurant in the world.
The company said its campaign, promoted by a regional tour by the London 2012 mascots around its outlets, would have a positive effect on children’s health. “It will take the Olympics out of London and make sure kids can get involved and have some fun,” said Jo Burnett, McDonald’s head of UK marketing.
Professor Paul Gately, Carnegie professor of exercise and obesity at Leeds Metropolitan University, said: “When you look at the significant engagement and reach McDonald’s has, that provides a really great platform. It also really understands customers and how to talk to them. By providing them with the right information, McDonald’s is capable of switching kids on to physical activity and exercise, much more than what we’ve seen in previous public health campaigns. It can really contribute to the legacy objectives of 2012.”
Professor Gately, a member of McDonald’s “global advisory council”, said that while there were questions about the government’s “responsibility deals” with the corporate sector, the McDonald’s campaign should be embraced because it provided a route to large numbers of people. “Without public-private partnership we are not going to address these issues about the promotion of physical activity or healthy eating or tackling obesity. We can’t deal with one dimension independently from everything else,” he said.
“Rather than standing over the other side of the fence throwing things, I’d rather see how we can be effective at engaging with children and young people.”
The vice-president of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, Professor Terence Stephenson, said last weekend that the involvement of Coca-Cola and McDonald’s in the Games was “most unhelpful”.
“One of the biggest events we’re ever going to see in the UK – all those people watching TV and going through the doors will be seeing this. People must be influenced by it, or why would Coca-Cola spend a lot of money to be at the Olympics?” he said.
Major food and drinks firms fuel crisis with irresponsible marketing, claim doctors, who call for ban on fast-food sponsorship deals
The body that represents every doctor in the country has launched an unprecedented attack on the coalition government’s failed strategy to tackle an obesity epidemic in the UK.
The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges demands “bold and tough” measures to put an end to the role of “irresponsible marketing” by major food and drinks firms in fuelling the crisis. It calls on the health secretary, Andrew Lansley, to ditch the government’s “inherently flawed” approach, which trusts the industry to voluntarily cut calories, reduce portion sizes and advise the public on healthy eating.
Instead, the academy’s vice-president, Professor Terence Stephenson, says the government must take on the major brands, some of which he likens to the tobacco giants of the last century that stalled radical measures designed to save lives in order to protect their profits.
According to the latest research, 48% of men and 43% of women in the UK will be obese by 2030, a trend that will significantly increase the prevalence of strokes, heart disease and cancer, and lead to higher costs for the NHS. The academy, an umbrella organisation for the medical royal colleges and their 200,000 members, demands:
? A ban on firms such as McDonald’s and Coca-Cola from sponsoring major sports events such as the Olympics.
? A safe area around schools where fast-food outlets are not allowed.
? A prohibition on the use of celebrities or cartoon figures to sell unhealthy food and drink to children.
? A legal obligation on all food and drink manufacturers to publish on their products clear guidelines about the amount of calories, sugar, fat and salt.
? Consideration of “fat taxes” similar to those being implemented in Scandinavia, designed to penalise the buyers of food and drink high in salt, sugar and fat.
Stephenson said the academy was speaking out as it launched an investigation into what can be done to curb the rise in obesity. It will spend six months researching the causes and effects of obesity, and in the autumn will produce a report that will contain far-reaching recommendations for action.
Charlie Powell, campaigns director of the Children’s Food Campaign, applauded the academy’s intervention. He said: “Andrew Lansley should act on this excellent set of robust recommendations, but his track record suggests that he will once again ignore the advice of our best medical experts.”
Speaking to the Observer, Stephenson said urgent action, similar to that undertaken to reduce smoking over the past two decades, was necessary to deal with a society that he defined as “obesegenic” – an environment that positively encourages the gaining of weight.
Stephenson, who is also president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, which represents the UK’s 11,000 children’s doctors, said: “What can you do about this obesegenic environment we live in? The fact that Coca-Cola and McDonald’s are two of the big corporate sponsors of the Olympic Games is most unhelpful. One of the biggest events we’re ever going to see in the UK, all those people watching TV and going through the doors will be seeing this. People must be influenced by it, or why would Coca-Cola spend a lot of money to be at the Olympics?”
A major part of the government’s strategy to deal with obesity and drink-related problems has until now been “responsibility deals” in which the major food and drink brands have been asked to voluntarily curb their excesses and use their influence to encourage healthier living.
The health secretary has been a strong supporter of the policy, but Stephenson said it was a mistake. “I think a lot of people would draw analogies with smoking, where the smoking industry for many years seemed to actually fight what was to doctors clearly a growing, important public health issue for individuals. And that’s where their profits come from and they sometimes, by appearing to go along with these ideas, they actually stall or prevent more aggressive measures.
“Doctors think it’s inherently unlikely that huge companies that make money from selling high-calorie foods and drinks, like McDonald’s and Coca-Cola, are going to persuade their customers [to eat more healthily]. It’s like asking the petrol companies to say to people, ‘why not go on your bicycle?’. It just does not seem likely that’s going to happen.”
Stephenson also voiced concern that Carling, the beer company, is the title sponsor of the English Football League’s Carling Cup. He said: “For adults, beer is a source of calories. I like going to a football match and drinking beer, but it’s the high-profile sponsorship that means that every time we mention this trophy, we mention in the same words Carling Cup.”
In criticism of other promotional tactics, Stephenson said he was “concerned” that characters from children’s films are used to help sell fast food.
Barbara Gallani, director of food safety and science at the Food and Drink Federation, the body that represents the interests of the UK’s food and non-alcoholic drinks manufacturers, said the academy was wrong to dismiss the benefits of partnerships between food and drink brands and sports events, although she agreed some action was needed.
She said: “Food manufacturers have a good track record of making positive contributions to improving public health through a wide range of actions, whether it’s developing healthy choices, reformulating recipes of some of the nation’s favourite foods, or working to improve the food literacy of consumers.”
A spokesman for Coca-Cola said: “Without the support of sponsors such as Coca-Cola as many as 170 of the 200 national Olympic committees would be unable to send athletes to compete.”
A Department of Health spokesman said the government was committed to identifying the best possible evidence of what works in tackling obesity.
American Legislative Exchange Council is known for helping to pass laws favoring gun owners and voter ID requirements
Coca-Cola and PepsiCo have ended their partnerships with a conservative group that supports the spread of restrictive voting laws and stand-your-ground legislation.
The announcements came after campaigners urged consumers to boycott companies linked with the the the American Legislative Exchange Council (Alec).
PepsiCo ended its membership in the group in January, but it was first reported by NPR on Thursday.
Coca-Cola’s announcement that it had also severed ties with the organisation came on Wednesday after Color of Change, the nation’s largest African-American advocacy group, urged its members to boycott the company and other member corporations over their links with Alec.
Alec is a nonprofit member organisation whose stated purpose is the advancement of free-market principles, limited government, federalism and individual liberty. It drafts legislation on behalf of its individual and corporate members to develop what it calls “model laws” and sends them to lawmakers.
Its critics, including Color of Change, accuse it of working to disenfranchise minority and low-income voters by supporting the co-ordinated proliferation of voter ID laws which affect these groups.
It is also accused of encouraging up to 20 other states to enact similar measures to Florida’s controversial stand-your-ground law.
Rashad Robinson, executive director of Color of Change, said it had been in dialogue with Coca-Cola since last year over the issue. He said: “We welcome Coca-Cola’s decision to stop supporting the American Legislative Exchange Council, an organization which has worked to disenfranchise African-Americans, Latinos, students, the elderly, the disabled and the poor. We confirmed with Coca-Cola that they are no longer a member of Alec and no longer fund the group in any capacity.”
Robinson said that hundreds of their members began calling Coca-Cola on Wednesday morning, and “the company listened to their voices”.
“We continue to call on all major corporations to stop supporting voter suppression through Alec. Our members are prepared to hold accountable companies that continue to participate in Alec’s attack on voting rights.”
More than 85,000 members signed a petition targeting Alec’s corporate partners for their role in suppressing the black vote, and 170,000 have signed a petition calling on the department of justice to take over the case of Trayvon Martin, the unarmed black teenager fatally shot by a neighbourhood watch volunteer who claimed self defence, arrest his killer and review the police investigation of the case.
In a statement emailed to the Guardian, Coca-Cola confirmed it was ending its relationship with Alec.
Diana Garza Ciarlante, a Coca-Cola spokeswoman, said in the statement: “The Coca-Cola company has elected to discontinue its membership with the American Legislative Exchange Council (Alec). Our involvement with Alec was focused on efforts to oppose discriminatory food and beverage taxes, not on issues that have no direct bearing on our business. We have a long-standing policy of only taking positions on issues that impact our company and industry.”
On Wednesday, the Center for American Progress published a report on the proliferation of voter ID laws which it said were “hindering voting rights in a manner not seen since the era of Jim Crow”.
Last month, leaders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People called on the UN human rights council to investigate the proliferation of restrictive electoral laws.
PepsiCo was a member of Alec for 10 years. In January, according to NPR, a company vice-president told Color Of Change that it would not renew its membership for 2012.
Alec did not respond immediately to a request for comment.
On its website it acknowledges that Florida’s stand-your-ground law was a basis for its model legislation but expressed scepticism that the law could apply in the Martin case.
“Florida’s ‘Stand Your Ground’ law was the basis for the American Legislative Exchange Council’s model legislation, not the other way around. Moreover, it is unclear whether that law could apply to this case at all. ‘Stand Your Ground’ or the ‘Castle Doctrine’ is designed to protect people who defend themselves from imminent death and great bodily harm.
“It does not allow you to pursue another person. It does not allow you to seek confrontation. It does not allow you to attack someone who does not pose an imminent threat. What it does is allow you to defend yourself and your family from immediate and real danger.”
Coke and Pepsi change the way they make their drinks to avoid a cancer warning label in compliance with Californian law
Coca-Cola and Pepsi are changing the way they make the caramel colouring used in their drinks as a result of a California law that mandates drinks containing a certain level of carcinogens bear a cancer warning label.
The companies said the changes will be expanded nationally to streamline their manufacturing processes. The changes have already been made for drinks sold in California.
Coca-Cola and Pepsi account for almost 90% of the soda market, according to industry tracker Beverage Digest.
The American Beverage Association, which represents the broader industry, said its member companies will continue to use caramel colouring in certain products but that adjustments were made to meet California’s new standard.
“Consumers will notice no difference in our products and have no reason at all for any health concerns,” the association said in a statement.
A representative for Coca-Cola, Diana Garza-Ciarlante, said the company directed its caramel suppliers to modify their manufacturing processes to reduce the levels of the chemical 4-methylimidazole, which can be formed during the cooking process and as a result may be found in trace amounts in many foods.
“While we believe that there is no public health risk that justifies any such change, we did ask our caramel suppliers to take this step so that our products would not be subject to the requirement of a scientifically unfounded warning,” Garza-Ciarlante said in an email.
The Centre for Science in the Public Interest, a consumer advocacy group, in February filed a petition with the US Food and Drug Administration to ban the use of ammonia-sulfite caramel colouring.
A spokesman for the Food and Drug Administration said the petition is being reviewed.
But he noted that a consumer would have to drink more than 1,000 cans a day to reach the doses administered that have shown links to cancer in rodents.
The American Beverage Association noted that California added the colouring to its list of carcinogens with no studies showing that it causes cancer in humans. It noted that the listing was based on a single study in lab mice and rats.