Coca-Cola Health Funding hits Sour Results

Coca-Cola is funding a campaign to focus the discussion about obesity in Australia on exercise, shifting away from dietary intake as the solution to the health epidemic. 

In August last year, Coca-Cola's global boss promised to publish all financing of health groups after revelations of astroturfing activities by the New York Times.

In the United States alone, it was revealed that Coca-Cola had given $US21.8 million ($30.5 million) to fund research and $US96.8 million to fund what it calls "health and wellbeing partnerships" in the United States.

EIM Australia was launched in 2011 at the General Practitioner Conference and Exhibition in Sydney with a presentation by EIM global executive council member Steven Blair, who as vice-president of the Global Energy Balance Network was involved in a funding controversy that engulfed Coca-Cola in the US last year.

Dr Blair, who has said there is "virtually no compelling evidence" that fast food and sugary drinks caused obesity, has received more than $US3.5 million ($4.9 million) from Coca-Cola since 2008, according to The New York Times.

Mrs Hobson-Powell said ESSA was not aware of Dr Blair's relationship with Coca-Cola at the time.

Dr Blair was most recently in Australia in October, as keynote speaker at an Australian Physiotherapy Association conference where he claimed that undue focus on diet could lead to flawed strategies for tackling obesity.

He presented a similar argument during a guest lecture to students at the University of Queensland's faculty of Health and Behavioural Sciences.

Timothy Olds, a professor of health sciences at the University of South Australia, also appears on Coca-Cola's funding list as one of 12 scientists who received a combined $US6.29 million ($8.8 million) grant to conduct an international study into the relationship between lifestyle and environment and childhood obesity.

Dr Olds said the University of South Australia received about $400,000 for his part in the research, which discloses Coca-Cola's involvement.

A spokeswoman for Coca-Cola South Pacific said it would reveal all its Australian grants and gifts "in the coming months".

"This is a lengthy process as we are currently compiling details of the projects we have supported dating back to 2010," she said.

The spokeswoman said CCSP was "proud to support Exercise is Medicine Australia from 2010-2013.

The sponsorship agreement with Exercise & Sports Science Australia provided funding for ESSA to resource an EIM Australia project development officer whose responsibility it was to set up and implement the program in Australia.

"Coca-Cola South Pacific funding stopped in 2013 because the project was complete."