Lawsuit alleges Coke spent billions of dollars deceiving customers on the health risks of sugary drinks

Coca cola cans

Coca-Cola is in hot water over the health risks of sugary drinks.

A lawsuit filed Wednesday by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), a consumer-advocacy group, claims that Coca-Cola and industry group the American Beverage Association have misled customers regarding the health risks of consuming sugary drinks such as soda.

“Each year, Coca-Cola reaps huge profits from the sale of its sugar-sweetened beverages,” the suit reads. “Each year, Coca-Cola spends billions of dollars on misleading and deceptive promotions and advertising that have enormous appeal to consumers, including children, which advertising effects persist over years.”

The suit specifically takes issue with Coca-Cola and the ABA’s emphasis on “calories in, calories out” and exercise as the best ways to manage health, which CSPI argues ignores scientific evidence linking sugar-sweetened drinks to obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.

The suit additionally claims Coca-Cola purposefully misled Americans on the health risks of drinking soda by funding research that downplays the dangers of sugary beverages, a practice the company ended after public criticism.

Coca Cola

The ABA has long argued the obesity is a “complex condition,” pointing to the fact that obesity and diabetes rates have increased in recent years, despite the fact that soda consumption is dropping. Coca-Cola has similarly claimed that soda can be part of a balanced diet, promoting exercise and smaller bottles as solutions to potential health issues.

The ABA and Coca-Cola did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s requests for comment.

CSPI is demanding that Coca-Cola and the ABA disclose files on potential health implications of consuming sugar-sweetened drinks, fund a public health education campaign, and end advertising aimed at children as well as marketing that implies drinking sugary beverage is not linked to health problems.

This isn’t the first time that CSPI has filed a lawsuit against a beverage giant known for its sugary sodas.

In October, the consumer-advocacy group filed a class-action lawsuit claiming PepsiCo misled consumers by marketing its Naked Juice beverages as healthier than they really are — a claim that PepsiCo denies.

In 2009, CSPI went after Coca-Cola over health claims made on bottles of Vitaminwater. Coca-Cola agreed to ditch the contested health claims and note that the drink was made “with sweeteners” on labels.

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