Two pastors in Washington, D.C. have noticed that misleading Coca-Cola ads have had harmful effects on their congregations, and now they are fighting back. They filed a lawsuit against Coca-Cola and the American Beverage Association on Thursday.
Senior pastor at the Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church, William Lamar, as well as Delman Coates, pastor of Maryland’s Mount Ennon Baptist Church, are tired of seeing people in their churches pass away due to heart disease, diabetes, or strokes. They attribute much of these types of diseases to deceptive marketing practices by companies who promote sugar-sweetened beverages.
The pastors partnered with the Praxis Project, a public health group, to file the suit at the D.C. Superior Court. The allegations were that Coke and the ABA wanted to “confuse consumers about the causes of obesity.”
Lamar and Coates believe that these misleading ads are particularly harmful to their primarily black congregations. According to the Washington Post, “Obesity, hypertension, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and lower-extremity amputations are all far higher among people of color than among whites. These communities also drink more soda- and are exposed to more soda advertising.”
Coates said, “It’s become really clear to me that we’re losing more people to the sweets than to the streets. There’s a great deal of misinformation in our communities, and I think that’s largely a function of these deceptive marketing campaigns.”
Praxis Project Director Xavier Morales noted, “There’s a health crisis in the U.S., especially in our communities, and especially among children. They target our communities with their marketing. We’re going into those communities trying to save lives, and they’re going out and erasing our message.”
The complaint focuses on the enormous amounts of money that Coca-Cola has spent on trying to confuse the tie between soda consumption and disease. According to the two pastors, the marketing is deceptive. The following ad is an example:
The Coca-Cola Company’s response to the allegations was dismissive. The statement said, “The allegations here are likewise legally and factually meritless, and we will vigorously defend against them. The Coca-Cola Company understands that we have a role to play in helping people reduce their sugar consumption.” This wasn’t the first time Coca-Cola has been accused of misleading advertising. A similar suit was filed in California last January but was later withdrawn.
What do you think? Should the American Beverage Association, Coca-Cola, and other companies who sell sugary products be more intentional with being truthful in advertising?