These are just some of the informative tips on hydration and wellbeing on Coca Cola’s Make Every Drop Count website. Brought to you by the benign sounding (and Coke-backed) Beverage Institute for Health and Wellness, the website offers tips on “staying well hydrated”, the “importance of hydration in children”, nutrition and and physical exercise.

Consuming everything in moderation is the key message, and it seems to be Coke’s standard line in the war on fat. It’s the same line that Dr John Foreyt recently pushed at a Coca-Cola sponsored breakfast that ran alongside the 10th International Conference on Obesity in Sydney.  As one of the scientists from around the world who spoke about the role of sugar in a balanced diet, Foreyt said that soft drinks had been “demonised” and there were far more important causes of obesity.

Seems like sensible stuff, especially coming from a company whose main trade is sugary drinks. But Terry Slaven of the WA Cancer Council, who attended the breakfast, told Crikey, “The concern of most of us who went largely out of curiosity, is that this looks set to be the strategy of many people in food industry, to point the finger, and say don’t blame us…”

Slaven says that technically, Coke are right. “They’re not the sole source of responsibility, but few people would debate that they are making a contribution and there has been an increase in sales in sugary drinks…”

According to Federal Government figures, one in ten children under 16 is obese, and one in five is overweight. A recent Government survey of five schools found nearly 80 per cent of teenagers drank high-sugar drinks at “alarming” levels

Dr Tim Gill from the NSW Centre for Public Health Nutrition told Crikey, “Most of the rest of the food industry has had an adolescent response to the problem, but Coke’s been right back there in toddler hood…”

“By itself there is nothing wrong with this website, the problem is that this is the only response that we get from Coca Cola…it appears to be using these approaches to avoid its responsibility to consider the broader health impact of its products…”

But isn’t it unreasonable to expect anything more from Coke? “Other companies are starting a broader dialogue, even their major competitors,” says Gill. “Kraft has voluntarily removed character marketing from childrens products… Arnotts is looking at smaller portion sized packets in their high fat snack foods…even Pepsi are thinking about issues they can pick up… at this point Coca Cola needs to accept that childhood obesity is a serious issue…”

Maybe they should follow McDonald’s lead — the fast food giant have launched a website urging consumers to Make Up Your Own Mind. B & T reports that McDonald’s has denied that its new ad campaign was launched in response to the upcoming Australian premier of Fast Food Nation. They say their website endeavours to educate the public by providing a virtual tour behind the front counter and into the kitchen to give you the low down on what’s inside your Happy Meal.

Peter Fray

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