The Bullshitocene Age: Pepsi and Coca-Cola Have Sponsored Nearly 100 Dubious ‘Health’ Organizations
By Kurtis Bright
On Peak PR and Muddying The (Sugar) Water: Coke And Pepsi Sponsored Nearly 100 ‘Health’ Organizations
The earth has survived the Pleistocene Age, the Jurassic Age, and now we are trying our best to end a successful 4 billion year run for the planet with what some are calling the Anthropocene Age, the one that has been distinguished by humans altering the planet.
However, even at peak Anthopocene, we may also be entering a new sub-era right now, if big multinational food and beverage companies have anything to say about it.
Call it the Bullshitocene Age.
Future anthropologists will mark this as the era when bullshit came to the fore to such a degree that there was no longer any reliable means of telling it from the truth.
Presidential politics aside--and yes, there is a bounty of examples of the Bullhistocene Age there--a fine demonstration of how low we’ve sunk comes from a recent study on PepsiCo and Coca-Cola. These two massive multinational food and beverage operations, each of whom has a vested interest in selling sugar water to children, have each invested in nearly a hundred health organizations over the course of five years.
Conveniently for people who make their living selling sugar water, these corporate-funded “health” organizations fought to weaken the fight against obesity.
The research comes out of the University of Boston, and found that, combined, Pepsi and Coke gave money to 96 so-called health organizations between the years 2011 and 2015, making them partners in promoting the soda companies’ agendas.
Published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, the study found that 12 organizations accepted money from both companies, while one accepted funds from only Pepsi while 83 took money only from Coke. (The study authors were quick to point out that those numbers are likely skewed since Coca-Cola publishes a list of organizations it sponsors while Pepsi doesn’t.)
To what one hopes is their eternal and undying shame, two diabetes organizations even made the list of cola sponsorees: the American Diabetes Association and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.
That’s like asking Greenpeace to take a check from a Japanese whaling concern--and having them accept.
The study authors were more mild in their judgment, saying that the link to diabetes orgs was “...surprising, given the established link between diabetes and soda consumption.”
We can only imagine the slick talkers who slithered out of the Pepsico and Coca-Cola nests to make their sleazy pitch for donating to these groups, and thus purchasing for themselves the fig leaf of demonstrating “concern” over diabetes. In these stingy times we can also imagine the arguments within those organizations about all the good they could do with their 30 pieces of silver.
But was it worth it? Again, according to the study authors, the companies “...used relationships with health organizations to develop positive associations for their brands,” and to “...neutralize any potential legislative opposition.”
One example that came up was that of the organization Save the Children. This group had had advocated for soda taxes as far back as the early 2000s, lobbying for what has since proven to be an effective way to reduce soda consumption radically.
Save the Children’s position mysteriously changed, however, in 2009 when the organization suddenly decided to drop that stance.
That was the year they also happened to receive more than $5 million from Coca-Cola and Pepsi.
But there’s a phrase that nicely fits this new era of the Bullshitocene: Money Talks, Bullshit Walks.
The only trouble is that while it is walking all over you and your health, it is also pulling the wool over your eyes.