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Coca-Cola funded anti-obesity group disbands after drinks giant admits 'insufficient level of transparency' around its involvement


By Natalie Mortimer | N/A

December 2, 2015 | 3 min read

Non-profit anti-obesity group Global Energy Balance Network (GEBN) has closed down days after its funding partner Coca-Cola admitted that it had not been transparent about its involvement with the group.

Last week Coke chief exectuive Muhtar Kent told the Associated Press (AP) that "it has become clear to us that there was not a sufficient level of transparency with regard to the company's involvement with GEBN.

"Clearly, we have more work to do to reflect the values of this great company in all that we do.”

Kent made the confession after AP obtained a series of emails which revealed that Coke had helped to pick GEBN’s leaders, edited its mission statement and made suggestions about articles and videos that appeared on its website.

A statement on GEBN’s holding page announced the news: “Effective immediately, GEBN is discontinuing operations due to resource limitations.”

The rest of the website has been removed.

GEBN received $1.5m from Coke to help it fund and connect scientists and research around the world, however in a email seen by AP it seems the relationship between the two organisations had deeper ties.

An email sent last November by GEBN’s president to a Coke executive read: "I want to help your company avoid the image of being a problem in peoples' lives and back to being a company that brings important and fun things to them."

Coke has doubled efforts of late to turn around its image as an unhealthy option as the war on sugar continues to rage. The drinks giant has begun to focus marketing on its lower calorie and low sugar options and during the Rugby World Cup used sugar free variant Coke Zero as its hero product.

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