Coca-Cola and the American Beverage Association (ABA) are being accused of intentionally deceiving consumers about the health implications associated with drinking sugar-laden beverages. According to a new lawsuit filed by two pastors, the alleged dishonesty perpetrated by the organizations has become “a matter of life and death” to the African-American community.
In the complaint filed in Washington, D.C., late last week, Delman Coates, pastor of Mt. Ennon Baptist Church, and William Lamar, senior pastor at Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church, claim “false, deceptive, and misleading” soda marketing tactics are being used to intentionally confuse consumers. The two pastors, along with public-health group Praxis, say Coca-Cola’s advertising campaigns and the ABA purposely downplay the dangers of consuming sugary drinks by ignoring “material facts” that link sugar with certain health problems.
“Reasonable consumers lack the scientific knowledge necessary to determine that many of Defendants’ representations about sugar-sweetened beverages are false and misleading, including that they omit material facts about the link between such beverages and obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease,” the complaint states, as reported by The Blaze.
While the African-American pastors have repeatedly tried to educate the community about the health risks of sugary drinks, contradictory marketing by Coca-Cola has consistently undermined their efforts. They cite several soda commercials that feature sexy, physically-fit men and women consuming Coca-Cola products, yet never show unhealthy, obese people. More and more of their predominately African-American church members are succumbing to a wide range of issues like diabetes and cardiovascular disease as a result.
“It’s almost as if they are selling joy. They are equating this product with the things that people are hoping for – joy, smiles, family. But this product will not deliver that. It delivers the exact opposite. Silence around this issue is violence,” Lamar said, as cited by CBS News.
Coca-Cola has responded to the lawsuit by contending the plaintiffs’ arguments are “factually meritless.” The soda maker plans an aggressive defense against the lawsuit.
The ABA says the soda industry takes the country’s health problems caused by sugary drinks very seriously. Many beverage companies actively participate in nationwide programs designed to educate consumers about the amount of sugar and calories contained in soda drinks and sweetened fruit juices.
Although the pastors believe dishonest Coca-Cola marketing is causing an increase in the consumption of soda, most Americans want to avoid the stuff. A Gallup poll conducted in 2015 revealed 60 percent of respondents were consciously “trying to steer clear” of sugary drinks. This was a significant rise from 41 percent in 2002 when the survey was first done.
A 2012 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report revealed black and Hispanic Americans are more likely to drink soda on a daily basis than white Americans. While not a definitive link, a 2016 study published in the Journal of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities suggested African-American children who drink soda often have a higher body mass index (BMI) later in life.
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