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Coke no longer a social choice for kids


By Matt Dischinger

Auburn Plainsman

September 15, 2005

According to the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, Coke is no longer a social choice - at least not for children.

The organization wrote a letter to Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association-College Retirement Equities Fund (TIAA-CREF), asking the institute to remove Coke from the fund's Social Choice account.

The Social Choice account is the world's largest socially screened fund for individual investors.

Josh Golin, program manager for the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, said the Social Choice account is supposed to exclude products that are harmful to society, such as weapons and tobacco companies.

Golin said Coca-Cola should be included in this group because of the company's aggressive marketing towards children in an age of childhood obesity.

Alvin Poussaint, a psychiatrist at Judge Baker Children's Center, was one of more than 40 distinguished healthcare professionals to sign the letter.

"We're in the midst of an epidemic of childhood obesity," Poussaint said in an Aug. 30 press release.

"As long as Coca-Cola pursues profits at the expense of children's health, it should not be allowed to claim the mantle of social responsibility."

Some of the other signatories of the letter include Marion Nestle, author of "Food Politics;" Susan Linn, author of "Consuming Kids;" and Eric Schlosser, author of "Fast Food Nation."

Golin pointed out that while Coke claims to have a policy against advertising to children under the age of 12, it buys advertising time on shows like "American Idol," which is a top-rated show for children ages 2 to 11.

In its letter to the Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association-College Retirement Equities Fund, the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood said that Coke has been an active sponsor in films such as "Harry Potter," which is targeted toward children.

Golin said Coke has been actively lobbying against legislation that would remove soft drink machines from schools.

The letter states Coca-Cola sent five lobbyists to Indiana to defeat a bill that would have reduced soda sales in schools by 50 percent.

"All in all, Coke is the worst of the worst when it comes to marketing to children," Golin said.

Kari Bjorhus, director of health and nutrition communications for Coke, said the coalition is using misleading information.

For example, Bjorhus said while "American Idol" may be seen by a large number of children, 69 percent of the audience is 25 or over.

She said Coke sticks to its policy of not marketing to children under 12.

"If you watch Saturday morning cartoons, you'll never see a Coke commercial," Bjorhus said.

Bjorhus said Coke has always offered diet sodas and various other choices for soda drinkers.

"Obesity is a very complicated issue," Bjorhus said. "I don't think their claims are legitimate."

The complete letter and its signatories are available at www.commercialfreechildhood.org/pressreleases/tc/pdf

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