One of the key themes in Orconomics: a Satire is that when business fails to adhere to ethical standards or even basic human decency, it can really muck with the rest of society. Lest anyone think I’m unfair to our business community, I’m writing an occasional segment entitled Business Behaving Badly, wherein I call out real world examples of businesses acting like fantasy villains. In this episode: Coke.
The links between sugar and weight gain are profound, and for me, personal. Most independent nutritional scientists today agree that poor diet has more to do with obesity than lack of exercise, and one of the most terrible things about the modern diet is the overabundance of sugar in everything we eat. (Seriously, everything. There’s sugar in salted nuts.) The horrible effects of added sugar in food are well documented, but seldom in a more terrifying way than in the excellent documentary “Fed Up.” If you need to have the sugar (literally) scared out of you, I can’t recommend it enough.
So what is Coca-cola, a business that makes unfathomable sums of money selling sugar water, to do when most independent scientists agree that sugar makes people fat? Simple. Get some not-so-independent scientists to obscure the evidence that you’re effectively selling poison.
According to the New York Times, Coke helped found, fund and tout the Global Energy Balance Network, a “science” group promoting the idea that diet has little to do with obesity and we should all exercise more. Never mind that it takes 3 miles of walking to burn off a single can of Coca Cola; apparently if we would all just walk the Appalachian Trail twice a year, we could enjoy healthy beverages like Coke and Pepsi every day.
Shockingly enough, statements released by the Global Energy Balance Network closely mirror Coke’s own language about diet and exercise. It’s blatantly marketing / PR disguised as science; a group of PhD’s shilling corn syrup for the sake of keeping their (remarkably expensive) research going. All the while, people who drink soda are subjected to higher rates of obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and early death.
Can you remember the last time a company released bogus science to help it keep selling a product that was literally killing Americans?
That’s right, folks. Big Sugar is the new Big Tobacco.
That’s it for this episode of Business Behaving Badly. I’d like to say it will be a long while before I have to write another one, but I know better.