UPDATE: Coca-Cola has released the first six-month update to its public disclosure of funding for scientific research and health and fitness programs made from 2010 to 2015. The company has updated the total to $132.8 million, up from $118.6 million in its initial September disclosure. The updated amount includes additions but also removals of previously inaccurate entries.
- James Hill, a University of Colorado nutrition expert who received $550,000 from Coca-Cola, is vacating his position as executive director of the Anschutz Health and Wellness Center, effective immediately.
- Hill and his research were scrutinized after a New York Times report last year revealed that Coca-Cola had funded the Global Balance Energy Network, a nonprofit for obesity research led by Hill, which has since been shut down. GEBN had emphasized physical activity over diet to fight obesity. The University said Nov. 6 it was giving back a $1 million donation from Coca-Cola on account of the distraction.
- A Coca-Cola representative said Hill's $550,000 was for "honoraria, travel, education activities and weight management research before the network formed," according to The Denver Post.
The ordeal calls again into question health research funded by food and beverage manufacturers and industry groups.
In this case, health experts balked at a nonprofit funded by a soda company that favored physical activity over a healthy diet to combat obesity. Coca-Cola CTO Ed Hays said in a USA TODAY column that the company has "always operated under the fact that a healthy, balanced diet and regular exercise are key ingredients for a healthy lifestyle."
Industry-funded research is pervasive, with Coca-Cola alone disclosing $118.6 million spent on scientific research and health and fitness programs since 2010, as of last September.
Still, this research enables manufacturers to form or prove the health claims they include on their product labels. It also enables them to join and contribute to the national public health conversation.