Obesity Not Soda’s Fault, Coke CEO Says

Obesity is very possibly the biggest health problem facing the Western world nowadays, and the role of sugar (and its cheaper substitutes like corn syrup) is emerging as an all-purpose villain in the war against fatness.

To curb obesity in New York City, Mayor Mike Bloomberg recently announced plans to meddle in the soda consumption of average New Yorkers. And for a big business guy like Bloomberg, that’s a risky move- and one guaranteed to piss off the people who make the sugary drinks that have in part made America a supremely jiggly nation.

And in the obesity wars, not surprisingly, it did. Loss of revenue for big soda manufacturers — who, let’s face it, are only a small part of why we have such a struggle with weight in the US — is guaranteed to be a big side effect of a NYC soda ban, not to mention the part where it de facto validates blame for soda companies as well as there being an inevitable future declaration of success regardless of how the NYC soda ban works out.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Coca-Cola CEO Muhtar Kent used his best corporate-speak restraint to lash out at Bloomie’s soda hate, huffing to the paper:

“[Obesity] is an important, complicated societal issue that we all have to work together to provide a solution… That’s why we are working with government, business and civil society to have active lifestyle programs in every country we operate by 2015.”

coke obesity

The Coke big wig continued:

“We’ve gone from being a single-beverage, single-brand company to now 500-plus brands, 3,000 products. Eight hundred of these products we’ve introduced in the last four or five years are calorie-free or low-calorie… It is, I believe, incorrect and unjust to put the blame on any single ingredient, any single product, any single category of food.”

While there will perhaps be a small cumulative effect on obesity, other outlets have pointed out that much of New York’s identity is tied up in food, as well as the fact that some of its bigger events are food-focused — like the hot dog eating contest each summer at Coney Island.