Two prominent black pastors in the Washington, D.C, area filed a lawsuit against Coca-Cola and the American Beverage Association on Thursday, claiming soft drink companies purposely deceive customers about the health dangers of sugary soda.
In particular, say the pastors, members of the black and Latino communities.
Pastor Delman Coates, who told The Washington Post he’s seen his parishioners give bottles filled with sugary soda to their babies, blames the soft drink companies:
“It’s become really clear to me that we’re losing more people to the sweets than to the streets. There’s a great deal of misinformation in our communities, and I think that’s largely a function of these deceptive marketing campaigns.”
Coates echoed his comments during an interview with CBS News:
“The background of this lawsuit is that there’s an epidemic of diabetes, cardiovascular disease and a range of other degenerative diseases in the black and Latino communities, and really throughout America.
For me, as a pastor, I see the toll it takes on families and children when they lose their parents much too soon.
It breaks my heart and I’m saddened by the way in which we’re losing so many people. I’m losing more people to the sweets than to the streets.”
“It is a matter of life and death in our communities,” Pastor William Lamar told CBS:
“Marketing for Coca-Cola is focused around health and fun and showing very sexy bodies in their advertising. You never see an obese person.
If the people are consuming Coca-Cola at this rate, there is no way those bodies would look like that. […]
This product will not deliver that. It delivers the exact opposite. Silence around this issue is violence.”
According to a 2014 report by the Centers for Disease Control, the percentage of black and Latino adults who said they drank one or more sugar-sweetened sodas per day was somewhat higher than among white adults:
Source: Centers for Disease Control/The Washington Post
In a statement to The Washington Post, Coca-Cola dismissed the pastors’ charges, citing the merits of a similar lawsuit in California, which was withdrawn:
The allegations here are likewise legally and factually meritless, and we will vigorously defend against them. The Coca-Cola Company understands that we have a role to play in helping people reduce their sugar consumption.
Incidentally, as cited by Business Insider, a 2016 study found per capita consumption of sugar-sweetened soft drinks in the U.S. has declined significantly since the late 1990s.
“The peak of soda consumption aligns with the heightened awareness of the obesity crisis in the early 2000s,” the study noted.