• How is Coca-Cola like a Camel? Ask Dr. Walker Tuesday, November 3, 2009

    The director of Contra Costa Health Services has resigned his membership in the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) to protest a new partnership between the association and The Coca-Cola Company “to develop consumer education content on beverages and sweeteners.”

    “This is reminiscent of when the tobacco industry enlisted doctors to endorse cigarette brands as ‘mild,'” said Dr. William Walker in announcing his resignation.

    “Some of you may remember the 1940s and ’50s when physicians were used on billboards and magazine ads to promote tobacco smoking. Then came the Surgeon General’s warning that smoking was harmful to your health. We discovered that the tobacco industry was deceiving us into thinking that smoking was safe.”

    Walker said when he told AAFP officials he was resigning, “their response was that the Coca-Cola partnership offers AAFP an opportunity to work with a major consumer products company to educate patients on making better choices.  That is ridiculous.  Having the soda industry create materials about making the right choices is like having the fox guard the hen house.”

    In an AAFP news release announcing the partnership last month, Rhona Applebaum, vice president and chief scientific and regulatory officer at Coke, said, “Our partnership will help provide Americans with credible information on beverages and enable consumers to make informed decisions about what they drink based on individual need.”

    Walker says “soda is a major contributor to our nation’s obesity epidemic.”

    “The AAFP is supposed to be an organization that works to protect the health of children not put them at risk. Their decision to take soda money is all the more unconscionable because, unlike doctors in the 40s, they well know the negative health impact of soda. . . .

    “As disappointed as I am with the American Academy of Family Physicians for being duped into thinking that Coca-Cola wants to help promote health, the real problem here is our children are being put at risk. Companies like Coca-Cola are polluting our communities with deceptive advertising promoting products that put our children’s health at risk. . . .

    “Look beyond the glitzy advertising that makes you think pouring liquid containing sugar into your body is healthy.”

    The AAFP represents almost 100,000 primary care physicians nationwide.  An association official said the one-year agreement with Coke will produce revenue in the “strong six-figures” for AAFP.  The information generated by the partnership will appear on the association’s consumer health and wellness web site, FamilyDoctor.org.

    J.G. Preston

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