A non-profit organisation (NPO) named The Praxis Project is suing Coca-Cola and the American Beverage Association (ABA) for alleged misleading and deceptive advertising.
In a court document which was first found quoted on Fortune, plaintiff The Praxis Project alleges that Coca-Cola and the ABA had for years “engaged in a pattern of deception to mislead and confuse the public”. This is regarding the scientific consensus which states that the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages is linked to medical conditions such as obesity, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The Praxis Project claims that both parties have continued to deny this link and misrepresenting the science surrounding this consensus.
This is despite widespread agreement in the scientific and medical communities that sugar-sweetened beverages a primary cause of these medical conditions. The NPO also claims that both parties were misleading regarding its advertising to children.
(Read also: Coca-Cola and Pepsi’s losing battle with the Millennials )
In a statement to Marketing, a spokesperson from The Coca-Cola Company said that the lawsuit is “legally and factually meritless”.
“We take our consumers and their health very seriously and have been on a journey to become a more credible and helpful partner in helping consumers manage their sugar consumption,” the statement read.
It stated some measures the beverage company has taken to support the health community, from adopting front-of-pack calorie labelling for all its beverages and innovating to expand low-and no-calorie products. In addition, the company is also offering and promoting drinks in smaller sizes, reformulating products to reduce added sugars. More importantly, it claims that it is transparently disclosing its funding of health and well-being scientific research and partnerships and do not advertise to children under 12.
“We will continue to listen and learn from the public health community and remain committed to playing a meaningful role in the fight against obesity,” the statement added.
The lawsuit aims to prove that both parties have violated the California Unfair Competition Law and False Advertising Law and also prevent them engaging in future false and misleading marketing of its sugar-sweetened products.
Marketing has also reached out to the ABA for comment.
In 2015, the beverage giant came under widespread scrutiny when it saw its chief scientist and health officer Rhona Applebaum stepping down, following accusations that the company orchestrated a research study with NPO Global Energy Balance Network.
The research was to downplay the role sugary drinks play in obesity. Soon after the report, Coca-Cola, in a bid to appear transparent, disclosed which institutions it funds.
In a statement to Marketing, Muhtar Kent, former chairman and chief executive of Coca-Cola, added that earlier that year, the company made a promise to become more transparent in order to be more viable in the global fight against obesity.