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Always need to keep TAB (pun intended) on Coca-Cola     

Coca-Cola's Corporate Practices Rival Big Tobacco
Published on Tuesday, December 21, 2004 by

For Christmas, will Coca-Cola stop acting like Big Tobacco?

by John F. Borowski

The holidays always promise redemption and hope: and just maybe Coca-Cola
will drop their ³Big Tobacco² strategies in favor of the moral high-ground.
When faced with damning truths, big tobacco has relied on obfuscation, bogus
science and deep-pocketed PR campaigns. Coca-Cola, stung by criticism that
they too are merchants of immoral marketing aimed at children and
unethically denying the health risks of their sugar water is fighting back:
as if manufacturing pseudo science will provide a smokescreen?

Barbara Beck, principal manager of scientific and regulatory affairs at
Coca-Cola suggested that I ³misinformed² readers in an article titled,
³Sugar Wars² (first carried by the Common Dreams website.) She forward a
letter (7/21/04) to (which also carried the article)
complaining that the article was flawed in three areas: soft drinks do not
cause obesity, soft drinks do not cause osteoporosis and finally, there is
no data to link soft drink consumption to diabetes!

Apparently, Coca-Cola emboldened by their enormous wealth and power with a
net income of $674 million and net operating revenue of over $17 billion in
2003, believes that corporate spin and relentless repetition of mistruths
can bury any critics. When corporate captains feel the need to respond to
the critics, they expose their capitalistic ³Achilles tendon² or should we
say, letıs crush anything or anyone who gets in the way of profit making. As
a teacher and father of two, I am sickened by the assault on public schools
by the likes of Coca-Cola and their ³exclusive pouring contracts.² Just look
at Coca-Colaıs own view of schools: 'The school system is where you build
brand loyalty.' -- John Alm, president and chief operating officer,
Coca-Cola Enterprises, quoted in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, April 6,

I refuse to shut up and know this: it is making an impact. On page 83 of
Coca- Colaıs own ³Managementıs Financial Review 2003,² they give us a
glimpse into their real nature. ³Laws that restrict our ability to
distribute products in schools and other venues or materially impact our
cash flow could negatively impact our revenue and profit.² No wonder Ms.
Beck fired off her salvo across the deck of my little ship of data, she
figures that the battleship ³Coca-Cola² can scare away any citizen or
citizens tired of their lies, manipulation of children and corporate

Hey Coca-Cola, three swings and three misses

Examine the three premises that Ms. Beck gave above to cast doubt on my
concerns about soda pop. First, there is ³no conclusive scientific evidence
indicates that sugar in soft drinks causes obesity.² A recent study in JAMA
(Journal of the American Medical Association) probably the most respected
medical literature in the nation refutes this falsehood. JAMA noted that
soft drinks are the leading source of added sugar in the American diet. Lead
author of the report Matthias B. Schulze added this, ³our finding suggest
that frequent consumption of sugar-sweetened beverage may be associated with
larger weight gain and increased risk of Type-2 diabetes, possibly by
providing excessive calories and large amounts of rapidly absorbable sugar.²
Reporting in the OLancetı, a British medical journal, a team of Harvard
researchers linked soda pop consumption to childhood obesity. This was an
extensive 19- month investigation.

The second premise that soda pop doesnıt cause osteoporosis is again
refuted. A study done by the Harvard School of Public Health found that
active girls, who drink cola type soda pop, are five times more likely to
suffer bone fractures than girls who donıt consume soda pop. Other animal
studies point to consistent and definite bone loss due to soda pop and the
phosphoric acid contained in them.

Lastly, Ms. Beck states, ³no data exist to connect soft drink consumption
with diabetes.² She simply needs to read the JAMA report that outlines the
research on 91,000 female nurses from 1991-1999. All the women were free of
diabetes in 1991, yet, the research showed that nurses who consumed one or
more sugary drinks a day were 1.3 times more likely to develop diabetes! I
see students at my school who tell me they consume between 2-4 20- ounce
containers of pop a day!

Does Coca-Cola teach ³ the world to sing in perfect harmony² about

Once Coca-Cola was another company trying to make a buck. Their first
television ad was produced in conjunction with a Thanksgiving special that
featured Charlie McCarthy. They quickly hooked up with Disneyıs television
premiere on Christmas 1950. Honing their skills, Coca-Cola produced one of
televisionıs most successful PR hook, ³Iıd like to Buy the World a Coke²
blitz. Now Coca-Cola has saturated the childrenıs market. From a Coke
backpack to Coca-Cola Polar bear bedding and accessories, the key is name
recognition. If our kids have Coca-Cola sheets, Coca-Cola dude bear boxer
shorts, Coca-Cola checkers, Coca-Cola Yahtzee, Monopoly, Barbie and
Checkers: why would they fear Coca-Cola in schools or doubt Ms. Beckıs
assurances that Coca Cola is healthy? I would like parents to sing in
perfect harmony, ³we are going to kick Coca-Cola out of schools and make the
drinking of Coca-Cola a rare treat.²

Like Big tobacco, Coca-Cola has the right to push their product. Like Big
tobacco, Coca-Cola knows of the health risks of their product, yet, prefer
silence to safeguarding children. Go to page 64 of that same prospectus
mentioned above. ³Our total education channel, consisting of elementary,
middle and high schools, along with colleges and universities, contributed
approximately 2.5% of our total volume in 2003.² Children are nothing but
mere statistics on a profit sheet even our most innocent- aged kids:
elementary school children. Coca-Colaıs misdeeds are not going unchallenged,
just look at the action being taken worldwide:

UNISON, the UK's largest union with 1.3 million members, passed a
resolution at their national conference, resolving to: "support the call to
boycott Coca Cola products"

NIPSA, the Northern Ireland Public Services Association, affiliated to both
the Irish Congress of Trade Unions and to the British TUC, voted to support
the boycott of Coca Cola until the company meets Sinaltrainal's (a union in
Columbia trying to bring to light Coca-Colaıs anti-union tactics) demands.

Service Employees International Union (SEIU), with 1.7 million members,
passed a resolution "Support the world-wide call to boycott Coca-Cola and
work to win broad AFL-CIO support for the campaign against killer Coke..."

Communications Workers of America (CWA), which represents 700,000 members,
passed a resolution: ³that unless the lawsuit is settled by October 15 and
the safety and rights of workers in the Coke's Colombian plants are
protected, the CWA will support SINALTRAINAL's divestment and boycott
campaign against Coca-Cola and SunTrust Bank, and will urge our members to
do the same."

American Postal Workers Union (APWU), with 270,000 members, passed a
resolution: " that the United States Postal Service remove all Coca-Cola
products from all postal facilities, and that State and Local American
Postal Workers Unions, stop purchasing all Coca-Cola products until this
issue is resolved."

The Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA), a constituency
group of the AFL-CIO, representing the interests of 1.7 million Latino
workers who are members of a union in USA passed a motion rebuking Coca-Cola
for their human rights violations in Colombia.

The American Federation of Teachers (AFT), with 1.3 million members, passed
a resolution: " to encourage AFT locals and individual members to
participate in a letter writing campaign to Coca-Cola to pressure its
Colombian branch to stop its persecution of employees seeking union
representation and to respect basic trade union rights..."

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union, with 60,000 members,
passed a resolution: "That the ILWU join the boycott of Coca-Cola and do all
it can to publicize the boycott around the world."

Parents, make the year 2005 the year that all school vending contracts for
Coca-Cola as well as Pepsi cease! If you need to serve pop in the house,
make it a rare and occasional treat. Water and soy/rice milk and real juice
provide a sound and better alternative. And may Coca-Cola executives wake up
Christmas morning to find the gift of corporate integrity, ethical standards
and moral fiber tucked neatly under their tree: because Santa and an
educated public might just pass by your corporation not just Christmas day,
but all year long.

John F. Borowski can be reached at He is an education
advisor to the Native Forest Council and his pieces have appeared in the NY
Times, UTNE Reader, PR Watch and numerous other sites.

For updates and info, contact scott at planttrees dot org.