Coca-Cola sued for misleading consumers

This news truly brings joy to my heart…sort of in the same way that the Grinch’s heart grew in size in Whoville. The soda industry is facing legal action for its deceitful practices.

Coca-Cola and the American Beverage Association trade group are being sued for “allegedly” misleading consumers about the health risks of sugar-laden beverages. You have to love the word allegedly. As if there’s any doubt.

The nonprofit Praxis Project accused these two co-conspirators of downplaying the health risks of soda and sweetened beverages to boost sales. The suit contends that they did this in spite of scientific evidence linking sugar-sweetened drinks to obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.

It’s really interesting to me just how this group went after the beverage giants. They called them out for their use of euphemisms like “calories in, calories out” to mislead consumers into thinking that Coca-Cola products can be part of a healthy diet. As we know, the notion that all calories are created equal is dead wrong. But instead of acknowledging that drinking liquid sugar is in itself a health risk, Coca-Cola has insisted that lack of exercise — in other words, neglecting the “calories out” part of the equation — is the real cause of obesity.

Now you know I’m the first person to tell you that lack of exercise is certainly a component in the diabesity epidemic. But to suggest that calories from sugary drinks are no worse for blood sugar, weight, and overall health than calories from vegetables is absurd.

The Praxis Project had help in its suit from the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI). You can always count on CSPI to be on the right side of issues. CSPI pointed out, “The notion that Coke’s products can be part of a healthy diet is imprinted on the minds of millions if not billions of people, and requires corrective action.”

Hooray for that!

Coca-Cola spokesman Kent Landers responded by claiming Coke takes its consumers’ health very seriously. He cites their “journey to become a more credible and helpful partner in helping consumers manage their sugar consumption” as proof of their good intentions.

I could barely keep a straight face typing that. Honestly, how do these people live with themselves? Bear in mind that a 16-ounce bottle of Coke has 12 teaspoons of added sugar. And even the drinks they’re marketing as “healthy” are loaded with sugar. A 15.2-ounce bottle of Minute Maid Cranberry Grape Juice drink has 13 teaspoons of added sugar. And a 20-ounce bottle of Vitamin Water has 8 teaspoons of added sugars.

The American Heart Association recommends no more than 9 teaspoons of added sugar for men and 6 for women. That’s in a whole day. The Coca-Cola is company is blowing those limits out of the water with one beverage.

Of course, I recommend zero teaspoons of added sugar per day. But I am not naïve enough to believe that we can end our addiction to sugary drinks overnight. What we can do, however, is stop the practice of misleading marketing.

In my opinion, these drinks should come with a warning label just like cigarettes. We have to start somewhere, or we are dooming another generation to obesity, cardiac disease, diabetes, and more.

The good news is that the sugar-sweetened beverage consumption is finally starting to slow down. But the problem is still dire. I went into the supermarket immediately after a workout the other day looking for something to drink, and it took me over 15 minutes to find something without sugar. As most food manufacturers do, drink makers replace obvious sugars with more covert sweeteners so people think they are getting something healthy.

Both Coca-Cola and PepsiCo Inc have pledged to cut back on “added sugar” in beverages. But note that they don’t say anything about sugar in general. This terminology has one purpose and one purpose only: to confuse consumers.

Sugar is sugar, whether it’s added or not. And as I always say: sugar kills.