Coke discloses more of its funding on health efforts

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Soft drink titan Coca-Cola is “closely watching” the market for drinks infused with cannabidiol, or CBD, the chemical in marijuana believed to relieve pain and anxiety. | Getty Images

NEW YORK — Coke said Thursday that it spent more on health research and partnerships than it previously disclosed as part of its push to be more transparent.

The world’s biggest beverage company first disclosed its spending on health-related efforts after coming under fire for its funding of the Global Energy Balance Network, a group that said its mission was to fight obesity. That group has since disbanded.

In an effort to be more transparent and mend relations with its critics following the fallout, Coca-Cola Co. said it would disclose all its spending in the U.S. on scientific research and health partnerships and regularly update the information on its website. In its initial disclosure in September, the company said it spent $118.6 million on the efforts between 2010 and 2015. That included payments to health and fitness experts who mentioned its drinks in blog posts or columns.

On Thursday, Coke said a more thorough internal investigation found the figure was $132.8 million for the same time period.

The Atlanta-based company said it also removed inaccurate listings from its website disclosing the partnerships.

The spending includes funding of programs for a wide variety of groups, including the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, the National Park Foundation, a health fair for the National Organization for Mexican American Rights, the American Council for Fitness and the American Diabetes Association.

Professor who headed Coke-funded obesity group steps down

The $1 million Coca-Cola gave to the University of Colorado for the establishment of Global Energy Balance Network has since been returned. The university announced that it was returning the money after releasing emails between Coke and one of its professors, who headed the group, to The Associated Press as part of a public records request.

The emails showed that Coke helped shape the group, and suggested articles and videos for its website. After excerpts of the emails were published, the group announced it was disbanding.

Coca-Cola also gave $507,000 to the University of South Carolina for the Global Energy Balance Network, since one of the group’s leaders was a professor at that school. That money has not been returned, according to Coke’s website. A university representative, Wes Hickman, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Global Energy Balance Network first came under fire after The New York Times reported that it was funded by Coke, and that it played up the importance of physical activity over calorie intake in fighting obesity.

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