Shaking with big sugar: cola cuts ties with a powerful food group

The International Institute of Life Sciences has been criticized for its attempts to influence public health and nutrition policy.

Coca-Cola Co. has ended its long association with the International Institute of Life Sciences, a blow to the powerful food organization known for its research and policies in favor of sugar.

The beverage giant has terminated its membership “globally, regionally and nationally” as of this month, Coke said in a statement in response to requests from Bloomberg News. The decision was made after a routine examination, the company said without providing further details.

This departure is a major setback for ILSI at a time when health-conscious consumers are increasingly turning away from sugary drinks. The group, which was started in 1978 by a former Coke executive, still lists companies such as PepsiCo Inc. and Kellogg Co. as members, but Coke was a prominent supporter and funder.

These companies did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the update to the group’s membership list. ILSI did not respond to requests for comment.

ILSI has been criticized in recent years for its role in influencing government health and nutrition policy around the world, acting like what some scientists and health experts have called a front group focused on advocacy for its corporate members. The group promoted the industry-friendly idea that exercise, not diet change, is a way to fight obesity, according to a 2015 New York Times report. influence around the world, including in a decades-long effort in China that has been detailed in the Journal of Health, Politics, Policy and Law, as well as in India and Brazil.

Citing the growing criticism, candy maker Mars left the organization in 2018 and Nestlé exited regionally and nationally in January of last year.

Previous decision

Coke made the decision last year to sever ties, said Mark Preisinger, the company’s director of corporate governance, in an October letter seen by Bloomberg and sent to the Park Foundation, a charity organization. nonprofit that criticized ILSI.

Corporate Accountability, a watchdog group that also called ILSI, said the move suggests Coke now sees “more risk than reward” in staying with the organization.

“For decades ILSI has been Coca-Cola’s accomplice in interfering with and blocking policies designed to protect the health and well-being of people across the world,” said Ashka Naik, Research Director at Corporate Accountability , in a press release.

Coca shares were little changed at 11:25 a.m. in New York. The stock fell 0.9% last year amid closures caused by a pandemic of sports arenas, amusement parks and other venues, and the company cut jobs.

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