Coke has therefore sought to diversify its product line by acquiring companies marketing products that are good for you (even thought they’re not!): Honest Tea, Odwalla, Powerade, Simple Orange, and Vitamin Water.
With federal and state bills under consideration to require food manufacturers to disclose genetically-modified organisms (GMO) on product labels, other horrific actions on the part of Coca-Cola and other Big Food have come to light.
In 2013, the Attorney General of Washington State filed suit against the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA, of which Coke is a member) for violating state election disclosure requirements in the campaign against the requirement for GMO labelling in that state, accusing GMA of money laundering.(1)
The lobby’s subsequent financial disclosure listed the companies that contributed and the corresponding amounts. The total was over $7.2 million—Coca-Cola’s portion was over $1 million of that.(2) The GMA was found guilty on March 11, 2016, citing:
“[GMA’s] violating the ‘spirit and letter’ of the state of Washington’s Campaign Finance Disclosure Laws by attempting to shield the identities of the corporations that dumped millions of dollars into a campaign to defeat a GMO food labeling initiative that was gaining steam across the state.”(3)
The hypocrisy and irony of Coke’s campaign contribution against GMO labelling is exemplified in its Honest Tea’s pronouncement that its products are “refreshingly honest”, devoid of GMO, and some are sweetened with erythritol, a naturally-occurring sugar (it’s produced as a by-product of fermenting corn).
The trouble with that boast is there are questions about this substance’s safety for human consumption.
So “honest” doesn’t extend to its parent company that wants to prevent a GMO-labelling law and hides its significant contributions toward its demise.
When asked about reasons for its efforts to defeat GMO labelling, a Coca-Cola representative stated that Washington’s bill would:
“Require tens of thousands of common food and beverage products to be relabeled exclusively for Washington State unless they are remade with higher-priced, specially developed ingredients. The measure will increase grocery costs for a typical Washington family by hundreds of dollars per year.”(4)
Both The Seattle Times and Consumers Union (a non-profit organization, the policy and action division of Consumer Reports) said that’s a bunch of hooey.
This isn’t Coke’s first major lawsuit revealing its questionable business tactics.
In 2009, a class action suit was filed in California against Coke’s Minute Maid division for misleading consumers on its pomegranate blueberry juice label.(5)
The Supreme Court of that state denied Coke’s motion for summary judgement in 2015 on the grounds that the federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act requires that labels aren’t false or misleading.
The case was settled in February of this year—you can view the settlement agreement here.
So Coke buys other companies trying to expand into the health/natural food market, using them to finance and shield its activities to oppose everything that stands for and the consumers that seek out those products.
There is humor in the disgusting facts.
Last year, the GMA honored Coca-Cola and Gallo Winery—another model agribusiness who has tried twice to eject the United Farm Workers union from its vineyards…and been denied.(6)
The bestowed award was for innovation and creativity.(7)
Given the behind-the-scenes facts, you can’t really argue with that.