Coke: Drinks aren't a big fat issue
Sorry, Mayor Bloomberg, but the folks at Coca-Cola say you've got your facts fizzy.
Coca-Cola, the world's largest soft-drink maker, is pushing back against New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's provocative proposal a week ago to limit to 16 ounces the size of sugary drinks that are sold at city restaurants, theaters and street carts.
"There is no scientific evidence that connects sugary beverages to obesity," Katie Bayne, Coca-Cola's president of sparkling beverages in North America said in an exclusive interview.
In fact, Bayne said, during the period from 1999 through 2010, when obesity was rising, sugar intake from beverages was decreasing. During that period, she said, sugars from soda consumption fell 39% even as the percentage of obese kids jumped 13% and obese adults climbed 7%.
Bloomberg was unavailable, but his deputy press secretary, Samantha Levine, said Coke's numbers have more fizz than fact. "The fact remains," she said, "sugary beverages are a key driver of the obesity crisis that is killing 5,800 New Yorkers and costing the city $4 billion annually."
Bayne, who is emerging as a key face at Coke on the sugary drink issue, said she "agrees" with Bloomberg that obesity is a critical issue, "but singling out single brands or foods is not going to help the situation. Working together in partnership will."
Coca-Cola introduced 20 low-calorie and no-calorie beverages in 2011, bringing the total of its diet and light drinks in the U.S. to 150. That's roughly one-third of its U.S. beverage portfolio, Bayne said.
Marion Nestle, nutrition professor at New York University, doesn't buy Coke's argument. "They're in an awful bind," she said. "They sell expensive sugar water."
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