Organic Consumers Association

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U.S. Right to Know Sues CDC for Documents About Its Ties to Coca-Cola

For Immediate Release: Wednesday, February 21, 2018
For More Information Contact: Gary Ruskin (415) 944-7350

U.S. Right to Know sued the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) today over CDC’s failure to comply with the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and provide documents in response to six requests about its interactions with The Coca-Cola Company.

The public records requests are part of an investigation USRTK is conducting into Coca-Cola’s influence at the CDC and the company’s impact on public policy. Public health evidence suggests that the consumption of sugary sodas is implicated in the obesity epidemic, and may be responsible for tens of thousands of deaths per year. Nevertheless, evidence gathered to date indicates that CDC staff provided political guidance to Coca-Colaallowed Coca-Cola to lobby the CDC, and accepted contributions from Coca-Cola via the CDC Foundation, which has disclosed such contributions as recently as last year.

“We are suing the CDC to uncover the extent and nature of the CDC’s relationship with Coca-Cola,” said Gary Ruskin, co-director of U.S. Right to Know, a consumer and public health watchdog group. “Just as it is wrong for the CDC to assist tobacco companies, it is also wrong for CDC to assist obesogenic companies like Coca-Cola.”

Since 2016, USRTK has filed 19 FOIA requests with the CDC. With the documents we received via FOIA from CDC and other sources, we helped expose former CDC Director Brenda Fitzgerald’s collegial relationship with Coca-Cola and the company’s former VP and Chief Science and Health Officer Rhona Applebaum in the New York Times and The Intercept.

We also revealed that Barbara Bowman, then-director of CDC’s Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention, had advised a former Coca-Cola senior vice president on how to stop the World Health Organization from cracking down on added sugar.  Bowman quit the CDC two days after her advice to the former Coca-Cola executive was revealed.

We also helped to uncover CDC staff concerns that CDC’s “mission is being shaped by outside parties and rogue interests” and their call to “clean up this house.”

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