Research Group Funded by Coca-Cola to Disband
A group called the Global Energy Balance Network, led by scientists and created by Coca-Cola, announced this week that it was shutting down after months of pressure from public health authorities who said that the group’s mission was to play down the link between soft drinks and obesity.
Coke’s financial backing of the group,reported by The New York Times in August, prompted criticism that the company was trying to shape obesity research and stifle criticism of its products..
Public health authorities complained that Coke, the world’s largest producer of sugary beverages, was adopting tactics once used by the tobacco industry, which for decades enlisted experts to raise doubts about the health hazards of smoking. Last month, the University of Colorado School of Medicine said it would return a $1 million grantthat Coca-Cola had provided to help start the organization.
Monday night, the Global Energy Balance Network removed all content from its website and posted a brief statement saying it was discontinuing its operations “due to resource limitations.”
The group’s president, James O. Hill, a prominent obesity researcher and professor at the University of Colorado, declined a request for comment.
The University of South Carolina had also accepted $500,000 from Coke to help start the group. But a spokesman for the university, Wes Hickman, did not return phone calls or messages on Tuesday asking what the university planned to do with the money it had taken from Coke.