Coca-Cola, PepsiCo can't ignore health issues

The critics are kicking the industry when it's down.

By Jonathan Berr Jul 20, 2012 12:24PM
Coca-Cola (KO), PepsiCo (PEP) and the rest of the carbonated beverage industry can't afford to ignore Thursday's call by health activists and some cities for the U.S. Surgeon General to conduct a comprehensive study on the health effects of soda, much like the landmark report on the dangers cigarette smoking decades ago. Too much is at stake.

Soda is a convenient whipping boy in the battle against obesity because it is devoid of nutritional benefits. However, the link between soda and America's bulging waistlines is not clear cut. For instance, fewer people are drinking soda on a per-capita basis, a more than decade-long trend that the Center for Science and the Public Interest, the industry's fiercest critic, has applauded.

Moreover, diet soda's share of the market has been increasing, accounting for about 29% of soda sales volume in 2011 compared with 70.9% share for regular soda, according to Beverage Digest.

A Surgeon General study, if it ever happens, would examine all the soda health issues, but would be unfair if it stopped at regular soda. Though diet soda has the aura of being a healthier alternative to sugary carbonated beverages, it has its own set of problems. A study released last year found that daily drinkers of diet soda had a 61% higher risk of stroke, heart attacks and other "vascular events." Another study found that diet soda drinkers were more likely to gain weight.

A recent New York Times op-ed made a convincing case against the consumption of cow's milk. Fruit juice is no panacea either. "Like soda, it can contribute to energy imbalance. High intakes of juice can contribute to diarrhea, overnutrition or undernutrition, and development of dental caries," according to a 2001 study in Pediatrics. Energy drinks can be problematic as well.

The reasons why people get fat and stay fat are complex. Blaming one factor, such as soda consumption, misses the broad array of medical, economic and social factors that cause the problem. New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg's plan to limit soda sizes is not the answer, and neither are soda taxes. Such approaches avoid the issue of individual responsibility.

Let's hope that the debate over soda's health effects can be based on science instead of simple fixes or sensationalistic press releases.

Jonathan Berr does not own shares of the listed stocks. Follow him on Twitter@jdberr.



Jul 20, 2012 3:38PM
Why is it their concern? I'm a big boy. I can take care of myself. I don't buy their product because I think it is healthy. There is only 1 person responsible for my health... ME!!! Not you, not Coke or Pepsi, not NYC, not Obama and Congress, not even my doctor. Every day I make a decision on what I will eat and drink. It is my decision to make in a free country. If there are health consequences, then I have to deal with that.

I am so tired of you idiots and the government thinking you need to protect me from myself. I will do what I want to do when I want to do it and as long as that doesn't harm your right to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness, you shouldn't care what makes me happy. Get off your high horse and quit thinking your way of living is the only right way.

Jul 22, 2012 2:20AM
I've been drinking soda for 30 years and have no problems with it. As with anything, moderation is the key. Consume too much calories and u will get fat period. Not rocket science. People today don't eat because they are hungry, they eat because they enjoy it. Like drug addicts.
Jul 23, 2012 9:00AM

Yes,let's spend a couple of billion tax dollars to find out why people gain weight.


It's really quite simple..if you eat more calories than you burn,you gain weight.


Every single person alive knows this. Even animals know this.


Banning food is not the answer. Changing ones lifestyle is.


I don't care if you are 500lbs or's your life.   Stop acting like obesity is a mystery!


Jul 23, 2012 10:26AM

I predict this:


If you eat corn syrup you'll die

If you don't eat corn syrup you'll still die

If you drink diet soad you'll die

If you don't drink diet soda you'll still die

If you're fat you'll die

If your not fat you'll still die


Being born is a terminal condition so go out screamin Ya Hoo!!!, sliding on the banana peel into the grave with a diet soda in one hand, a twinkie in the other, a pack of smokes in the front pocket and a can of skoal in the back.  Then lay in the same cold dirt next to the idiot who denied himself all of lifes simple pleasures so he could still ....................die.

Jul 22, 2012 10:34AM
IF YOU food police folks have a problem with the corn syrup  in soda then you need to stop eating all food since 75% of the food out there has it in it.   If you want to pick on the food industry, then why ignore candy makers, ice cream makers, meat packers, white bread bakers, fruit juice makers, all baked goods makers, anything in a can(BPA), almost any fish product---mercury, etc.   YOU see, there is a problem in most every food group, not just soda. 
Jul 23, 2012 11:49AM
Last I checked the government never told me to drink soda.  So why would I need them to tell me not to?  Can't we find better ways to waste tax payer money?
Jul 23, 2012 5:05AM
I a continue to be amazed at the lengths people will go to in order to avoid individual responsibility.  Could it be possible that if a person is over weight that they actually eat too much? Heavens no it must be somebody elses fault. Oh, I don't live in New York but weren't they on the verge of backruptcy recently. Seems like a bigger issue to me.
Jul 23, 2012 4:12PM
There is nothing wrong with having a can of Pop, or other stuff you would like to drink or eat it is all about moderation and exercising. The problem is not the drinks and food available the problem is lack of control by the people on the consumption of stuff. We have become an overweight and lazy country. Kids today don't want to play outside they want to sit in the house and play video games. Parents don't want to cook they want to order pizza or get fast food. So the problem is us not the food and drinks.
Jul 23, 2012 8:43AM
i love coca-cola been drinking it since i was knee high to a grasshopper,now im 40 and was 239lbs in march.i stopped drinking my ritual 2-liter a day and started drinking water like a mad at the end of july(still drinking 1-2 12oz.cans a dayhate water with food)i am down to 195lbs with a little exercise thrown to all you soda haters out there,cut back some ,drink more water,and get off your lazy **** and burn a calorie or two.oh yea and quit stuffin your freakin face with those 99 cent cheese burgers allday!go find something else to gripe about!
Jul 22, 2012 11:27AM
Bottom line for me bloomberg is abusing his office and taxpayer dollars he should step aside .. He should be concerned with finding goood paying jobs ,keeping his city safe and clean etc.. Nobody voted him in as their parent . Anyone who is under the taxpayer payroll should be concerned with JOBS AND THE ECONOMY !!!!!!
Jul 20, 2012 10:56PM
Part of the problem with obesity is that eating healthy gets expensive.  Company's put out a healthier version of an item and then charge a premium for it.  Food budgets are stretched to the limit.  Now they are saying that meats and corn product prices will skyrocket because of the lack of rain and failing crops.  The same with eating out...there are few options that are healthy and the cheapest food is the worst for you.  But a person has got to eat something...and they have to eat what they can afford.  I'm sure that's not the case for everyone, but I do believe that is the case for the poor making bad eating choices.   
Jul 20, 2012 12:51PM
I'm overweight and i never drink soda's. So is that really the problem.
Jul 23, 2012 11:40AM
5 of the first 6 comments here are spam--one would think this is a problem easily fixed no?  I am starting to think that MSN profits from these aholes
Jul 23, 2012 11:12AM
Normal brain washing propaganda here...

eating causes cancer unless it is government sanctioned(lobbyist approved) manna

Drinking anything causes cancer unless of course it is the overpriced poisoned tap water that we are all subject to.

breathing, copulation, walking...not walking...evacuating our bowels...causes cancer.

The real truth here is that the right palms are not being greased by the soft drink industry there fore they are evil...EVIL.  

I will eat, drink and do what I want.  How can the government possibly know what works for me personally? 

Jul 23, 2012 5:32PM
It's not only soda , I drank it when little and never got fat. But the soda I drank was different than todays. Mine was made with cane sugar and today its corn suryp. Also we ran around after school and didn't live a sedentary lifestyle.We played outside sports even in the dead of winter. We had home cooked meals since fast food wasn't invented yet. If we wanted a hamburger we got the meat from a butcher and made the paties. I was dragged to a McDonalds in 66' and looked at this tiny burger and laughed. Portions were smaller compared to what you get in a restaurant today. Most of the appitizers are deep fried. So we can't just pin the tail on soda as the only culprit. It's a combination of issues even includes starting breakfast with a sugary processed food, and ending the day with a sugary snack before bed
Jul 20, 2012 4:58PM
I cut myself with a paring knife yesterday. I am going to start a grass roots campaign to have the government ban them, I am so happy we have people that care about out safety so much. How about this, they work on the economy, getting dead beats off welfare and such and let us handle the big problems like if we want a super size drink!
Jul 23, 2012 8:44AM
We need to ban anything harmful. Like cars, motorcycles, trucks, buses, knives, nails, cans, glass, electricity, any flammables, all explosives, and off course alcohol. Any suggestions for our list?
Jul 21, 2012 8:38AM

Okay all you Commies! The government should force all of us to rise and shine each morning at 0400 hours for a vigorous workout, force us to take our vitamins ( or fine us under obama tax care) , Eat exactly what they tell us too, Only drive hybrid or electric cars, watch only certain shows on television ( for our indoctrination into how great our government is) , go to the government designated religious meeting place and give thanks that we have such great leaders such as obama, and go to bed at exactly 2100 hours. Our thermostats will all be programmed exactly the same.

Are you people all nuts? Is this what you really want? Well I guess I'm just an old fashion rebel! Give me Liberty or give me death! If I die at least I will die free and happy!

Jul 23, 2012 9:15AM
There are three kinds of lies. Lies, damned lies and statistics. Case in point, how effective is a product that is 99.9% effective for the .1%? For them it is a 100% failure. Never ceases to amaze that politicians continue to try and legislate against stupidity. Folks should learn to be accountable for their own welfare. It is plain and simple. Making people make correct choices cannot be legislated.
Jul 23, 2012 8:32AM

The reason for these studies is most politicians are inapt and can't do the job they were elected to do. They feel shifting attention to something else takes the heat off them especially at election time. Unfortunately with the mentality of the average American voter it works.

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