It wasn’t this mythical dude…
If a column in honor of heart health suggests a can of Coke as a snack, you might want to read the fine print.
The world’s biggest beverage maker, which struggles with declining soda consumption in the U.S., is working with fitness and nutrition experts who suggest its cola as a healthy treat. In February, for instance, several wrote online pieces for American Heart Month, with each including a mini-can of Coke or small soda as a snack idea.
The mentions – which appeared on nutrition blogs and other sites including those of major newspapers – show the many ways food companies work behind the scenes to cast their products in a positive light, often with the help of third parties who are seen as trusted authorities…
For Coca-Cola Co., the public relations strategy with health experts in February focused on the theme of “Heart Health & Black History Month.” The effort yielded a radio segment and multiple online pieces.
One post refers to a “refreshing beverage option such as a mini can of Coca-Cola.” Another suggests “portion-controlled versions of your favorites, like Coca-Cola mini cans, packs of almonds or pre-portioned desserts for a meal.”
The focus on the smaller cans isn’t surprising. Sugary drinks have come under fire for fueling obesity rates and related ills, and the last time Coke’s annual U.S. soda volume increased was in 2002, according to the industry tracker Beverage Digest. More recently, the company is pushing its mini-cans as a guilt-free way to enjoy cola. The cans also fetch higher prices on a per ounce basis, so even if people are drinking less soda, Coke says it can grow sales.
Most of the pieces suggesting mini-Cokes say in the bios that the author is a “consultant” for food companies, including Coca-Cola. Some add that the ideas expressed are their own. One column is marked at the bottom as a “sponsored article,” which is an ad designed to look like a regular story. It ran on more than 1,000 sites, including those of major news outlets around the country. The other posts were not marked as sponsored content, but follow a similar format…
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, a professional group for dietitians, says in its code of ethics that practitioners promote and endorse products “only in a manner that is not false and misleading.” A spokesman for the academy did not respond when asked if the posts on mini-Cokes meet those guidelines.
I don’t expect corporations deriving profits from selling deadly crap masquerading as food – to admit their products are deadly crap masquerading as food. And I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised they can find a number of greedy fools willing to prostitute their professional credentials to pimp their products.
I think it would be closer to ethical if  they didn’t get away with deliberate lies, publishing bought-and-paid-for consultants to pretend there is value to their products – and  it might be useful in a time and place like the 21st Century in the United States – if mass media attempted something approaching truth-telling in the adverts they’re paid to distribute.
I can hardly think of crap less likely to be a useful snack than a can of Coke.