• As background, on January 4, 2017, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), a consumer-advocacy group, filed a complaint claiming that Coca-Cola and the American Beverage Association (ABA) misled consumers regarding the health risks of consuming sugary drinks such as soda. The lawsuit specifically takes issue with Coca-Cola and the ABA’s emphasis on “calories in, calories out” and exercise as the best ways to manage health, which CSPI argues ignores scientific evidence linking sugar-sweetened drinks to obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. The suit also alleges that Coca-Cola purposefully misled consumers on the health risks of drinking soda by funding research that downplays the dangers of sugary beverages.
  • Coca-Cola immediately issued a statement calling the lawsuit “legally and factually meritless,” and noting that the Company takes its “consumers and their health very seriously and [has] been on a journey to become a more credible and helpful partner in helping consumers manage their sugar consumption.” The company further stated that it has worked to improve products’ nutrition by adopting front-of-pack calorie labeling, expanding low- and no-calorie products, reformulating products to reduce added sugars, and being more transparent in regards to disclosing funding. Coca-Cola also said it does not advertise to children under 12.
  • The ABA, for its part, has long contended that obesity is a “complex condition,” noting, for example, that whereas obesity and diabetes rates have increased in recent years, soda consumption has dropped. In response to the complaint, ABA stated that “unfounded accusations like these won’t do anything to address health concerns, but the actions we’re taking, particularly in areas where obesity rates are among the highest, can make a difference.”
  • The complaint was subsequently withdrawn and refiled on July 13, 2017 to include additional plaintiffs. A copy of the refiled complaint is available here.
  • CSPI is demanding that Coca-Cola and the ABA disclose files on potential health implications of consuming sugar-sweetened drinks, fund a public health education campaign, and end advertising aimed at children as well as marketing that implies drinking sugary beverage is not linked to health problems.
  • Given the lack of scientific literature demonstrating a causal link between soda consumption and negative health outcomes, the plaintiffs likely face an uphill battle in advancing their key claims. We will be sure to keep a close eye on developments in this case and report them to you here.