Many private and public health groups have accepted donations from either Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, or both. Many critics have denounced the news as a conflict of interest, as the over-consumption of sugar in drinks like Cola-Cola or Pepsi are the leading causes of obesity in America.
A study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine reports that between 2011 and 2015, a whopping total of 96 national health organizations accepted money from one or both of the two most prominent soda companies in the nation. Groups include the American Diabetes Association, the National Institutes of Health, the American Red Cross, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics among others, according to Time.
The study was conducted by Daniel Aaron, a medical student at Boston University's School of Medicine. He and a professor of community health sciences found that out of the 96 health organizations funded by the soda companies, 63 were public health groups and 19 were medical organizations, according to Time.
"To see all these organizations [accepting money] is shocking and surprising," Daniel Aaron told Time. "I don’t think companies have a legal duty to protect people’s health, but I think these groups do."
Neither Coca-Cola nor PepsiCo responded for comment, according to The Washington Post. However, the American Beverage Association, which represents both companies, released a statement that the donations were part of a commitment to a "healthy America."
"America’s beverage companies are engaged in public health issues because we, too, want a strong, healthy America," the statement reads, says The Post. "We have a long tradition of supporting community organizations across the country. As this report points out, some of these organizations focus on strengthening public health, which we are proud to support."
However, critics are questioning the alleged commitment to public health by both Coca-Cola and PepsiCo. The study also outlined that during the five-year period, one or both of the companies lobbied against 29 proposed public health bills that were aimed at reducing soda consumption in America.
The study's authors found it particularly troubling that many diabetes organizations, including the American Diabetes Association and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, accepted money from the two soda companies "given the established link between diabetes and soda consumption."
"Now, most organizations refuse tobacco money," writes Aaron in the study, according to The Post. "Perhaps soda companies should be treated similarly."