It's not Coke's job to make us healthy

Spare me the sainthood for soft drinks. This mind-numbing statement of the obvious and banal is what corporate PRs exist to give us, but that doesn’t make it forgivable

Share

In a move hailed by some as exemplary corporate benevolence, the world’s biggest beverage company announced today that it would adopt clearer calorie-count labels, promote healthier drinks and stop marketing to children under 12. “Coke takes anti-obesity campaign global,” the Associated Press reported breathlessly, as if humanity had made a great leap forward.

Everything about this story stinks. Let’s start with the following stupid and aimless sentence from chief executive Muhtar Kent: “There is a place for all of our beverages in a healthy lifestyle.” This mind-numbing statement of the obvious and banal is what corporate PRs exist to give us, but that doesn’t make it forgivable. Nor is Coke’s assumption, in a high-profile announcement, that we haven’t heard this before. It first promised to stop marketing to children in 2007.

Then there is the charade of public service, as if this were motivated by virtue. Coke doesn’t exist to cleanse our livers. It is a massive corporation that exists to make huge profits. This is fine by me, because I like big corporations: they create wealth, tax revenues and jobs. But misleading customers about Coke’s primary intentions doesn’t help that mission. It just misleads customers.

That leads to another dispiriting aspect of this story: some people are actually duped by this crap. A medically astute friend tells me that carbonated drinks are terrible for bone density, so anyone who drinks them to lose weight is doing a double disservice, and storing up osteoporosis. And are there really people who are so naive as to accept dietary advice from a company – Coke, for goodness sake! – that makes fizzy drinks? Apparently so. Next, they’ll be asking their cocaine dealer for tips on nasal hygiene.

Parents, if anyone, should lead by example. And even on that score we should chill out. Coke is responding to one of the great moral panics of our anxious age, over an outbreak of podginess among kids, and the diabetes it might cause. But – and I say this as someone who has been overweight, whatever that means, all my life – like most great moral panics, this is mostly tosh.

There is nothing wrong with being fat. Fatness is not a moral failing. Those who say it is are supporting the dastardly relic of a Christian idea – gluttony. Nor is there any reason that fat kids always become fat adults, as I can prove. And with a bit of historical context, we should recognise that poor children being overweight is a lesser tyranny than poor children starving to death.

That remains the fate of millions around the world. Indeed, if all the effort that middle-class fusspots put into worrying about obesity in the developed world were put into worrying about feeding the world’s starving poor, vast amounts of suffering would be reduced. What is more, we’d have fewer witless pieties from the likes of Mr Kent. So everyone’s a winner.

React Now

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Business Analyst Consultant (Financial Services)

£60000 - £75000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Consultant (Fina...

Systems Administrator - Linux / Unix / Windows / TCP/IP / SAN

£60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A leading provider in investment managemen...

AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer

£600 - £700 per day: Harrington Starr: AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer JVS, ...

E-Commerce Developer

£45000 - £60000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Exciting opp...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Letter from the Political Editor: Phone and data laws to be passed in haste

Andrew Grice
The first lesson of today is... don't treat women unequally?  

Yvette Cooper is right: The classroom is the best place to start teaching men about feminism

Chris Maume
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice