CSPI objects to soft drink linked to Olympic success

Feb. 23, 2014 at 11:25 PM
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WASHINGTON, Feb. 23 (UPI) -- A Washington food advocacy groups questions Coca-Cola's TV ad suggesting Olympic skier Ted Ligety's success is due to his consumption of it soft drink.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest said Ligety joined Michelle Kwan, Drew Brees, Shaquille O'Neal, and a long list of athletes and entertainers who have decided to supplement their incomes by promoting illness among their fans.

The CSPI is asking the President's Council on Fitness, Nutrition, and Sports whether former Olympic figure skater Michelle Kwan's membership on the prestigious public health panel is compatible with her job as brand ambassador for Coca-Cola at the Sochi winter games.

"Appointed to the Council by President Barack Obama in 2010, Kwan's hiring was announced by Coca-Cola in the summer of 2013 as one of its 'Four-Pack' of 'Active Living Ambassadors' for the Olympics," the center said in a statement. "CSPI says the dual roles for the five-time world champion skater cannot be reconciled, since Coca-Cola and the President's Council communicate opposing messages when it comes to sugar drinks."

The President's Council advises: "Drink water instead of sugary drinks. Cut calories by drinking water or unsweetened beverages. Soda, energy drinks and sports drinks are a major source of added sugar and calories in American diets."

Jim O'Hara, director of health promotion policy at the CSPI said Kwan is pictured on the Coca-Cola website holding a bottle of non-diet Coke. The skater and the soda are "two of the most refreshing things on ice," the company says.

"The President's Council is one of the premier platforms the federal government has for promoting its official advice on nutrition," O'Hara said in a statement. "Therefore the council has an obligation to protect the integrity of its public health messages. Allowing makers of sugar drinks or junk foods to rent Michelle Kwan or other Council members is unacceptable."

The CSPI wrote to the council seeking its guidelines after being told Kwan and other council members adhere to "stringent federal laws pertaining to conflict of interest and other ethics regulations."

CSPI found of nine athletes on the President's Council, at least five are current or former endorsers of sugar drinks, O'Hara said.

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