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Doctors resign over Coca-Cola funding

By Caroline Scott-Thomas , 30-Oct-2009

Nearly 20 doctors have resigned from the American Academy of Family Physicians after it accepted a grant from Coca-Cola to pay for education about the dietary role of beverages and sweeteners.

The mass resignation was sparked by the AAFP’s decision to accept a “six-figure sum” from the beverage giant three weeks ago, which the organization said would help fund nutritional education content on its website. The AAFP has said that partnerships formed under its Consumer Alliance program would not include endorsement of any product and said the alliance was part of a wider strategy to expand funding sources beyond the pharmaceutical industry.

Contra Costa Health Services Director Dr William Walker publically resigned from the national professional association on Wednesday, outside the Contra Costa Regional Medical Center where he works as a family physician.

He said: "I am appalled and ashamed of the partnership between Coca-Cola and the American Academy of Family Physicians. How can any organization that claims to promote public health join forces with a company that promotes products that sicken our children?

“... We need as much help as possible to get our communities to see past the false claims of companies like Coca-Cola."

Reportedly, he then tore up his AAFP membership card, ending his 25-year involvement with the organization, and nearly 20 others said that they would also resign.

Responding to a request from FoodNavigator-USA.com last week, vice president of Living Well for Coca-Cola North America Celeste Bottorff said in an email: “The Coca-Cola Company has a long history of giving in the United States and our support contributes to a wide variety of areas such as sports, arts, education, health, community-building and the environment. The AAFP is one among many health organizations that we support in an effort to enhance and improve consumer education.”

Executive vice president of the AAFP Douglas Henley said in a statement: “We will move forward with this commitment together by providing educational materials on sweeteners and how to maintain a healthy, active lifestyle while still enjoying many of the foods and beverages consumers love.”

Dr Walker argued that consumption of soda and other sugar-sweetened drinks has been linked to higher rates of overweight and obesity.

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