When a single Medium blog post makes an 11-figure business back down, the world has changed.
After we tweeted the Coca-Cola Transparency archive at them, the public health organization Ninjas for Health released a blog post yesterday showing Coca-Cola paid dietitians who tweet against soda taxes. In it, NfH founder Kyle Pfister concluded,
It looks like Coke is doing it again: Paying dietitians to perpetuate lies that promote soda and swing public opinion against policy solutions to the obesity epidemic it helped cause. These aren’t “health experts”, they are paid promoters of the sugar industry. Shouldn’t their tweets be required to read: “Sponsored Post”? Or even better — reject soda industry sponsorship all together!
NY Times reporter Anahad O’Connor and @CrossFit retweeted the Ninjas post, and it spread rapidly. I expected the story to end there.
Today Coca-Cola asked the American Beverage Association to stop paying these dietitians. According to the Associated Press,
… the beverage association said it was also suspending “use of these experts in social and digital media engagement pending a review.” The group noted that the experts follow strict transparency standards, and that they’re paid for “their time, not their opinion.” Still, it said it was its work to ensure it is meeting the standards of its members.
That’s all it took.
We can draw two conclusions:
1. Big Soda is on the run. If a single blog post makes the ABA stop funding dietitians, Big Soda is more vulnerable than we thought. The ABA is exceptionally sensitive to anyone exposing its covert funding networks and the apparently legitimate dietitians, doctors, and fitness organizations who do its bidding. It’s time for health activists everywhere to increase the pressure on Big Soda.
2.Some dietitians are dirty. If dietitians and nutritionists promote Big Soda’s agenda for a small fee, without always disclosing the funding, where do they draw the line? Whiskey shots for liver health? How are dietitians claiming to be legitimate sources for information on food and health while moonlighting for Pepsi and Coca-Cola?
P.S. NfF compiled this list of soda-sponsored dietitians and health professionals to follow on Twitter.