Coca-Cola Co. has been sued by activists comparing the behemoth beverage maker’s advertising tactics to the past efforts of the tobacco industry in minimizing the effects of its products on health and targeting children in an attempt to increase its numbers of customers.
Praxis Project, a nonprofit organization is seeking to stop the beverage maker and the American Beverage Association from the deceptive advertising of different sugary drinks and in particular, those aimed at children. The suit also calls for disclosure of documents that are related to the impact on health the drinks have.
Studies have tied sugary drinks to Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and obesity, said the group. The lawsuit arrives as the makers of sugar drinks look to fend off assaults from regulators on a number of fronts.
Lawmakers in the UK are moving forward with a tax for sugary drinks ignoring the objections of producers, following suit with France and Hungary in Europe and Mexico in the Americas.
In the United States, cities such as Chicago and San Francisco have introduced new taxes on sugar drinks citing a disproportionate impact on the health of residents.
Praxis, a nongovernmental organization based in California, is being represented by the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest, which has a history of different litigation that targeted the food and beverage industry.
Starting in the 1950s and through the later part of the 1990s, the tobacco industry used elaborate campaigns of disinformation that cast doubts on science that connected cigarettes to diseases such as lung cancer, said the center’s litigation director Maia Kats.
Like members of the tobacco, industry, Coke much replenish its customers and it attempts to win them over at a young age, said Praxis in the complaint that was filed this week in California.
No comment was released by Coca-Cola when the company was contacted.
The American Beverage Association has not received the court complaint, said an association spokesperson and cannot make a comment on something it is not in possession of.
For soda makers, it is nothing new when it comes to needing to be healthier. Per capita consumption of soda in the United State was down to a low of three decades in 2015, a trade publication showed in December.
Coca-Cola based in Atlanta and its largest rivals PepsiCo and the Dr Pepper Snapple Group pledged to lower calories in their drinks and to increase the number of healthier options they offer.
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