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Coca-Cola research investments will be more transparent, CEO says

Coca-Cola research investments will be more transparent, CEO says
Coca-Cola Co. Chief Executive Muhtar Kent said Thursday in a Wall Street Journal editorial that the company would be more transparent about its research investments. (Elise Amendola / Associated Press)

Coca-Cola Co.'s chief executive said the company would be more transparent about its health research investments after a recent report revealed that the beverage giant funded an organization that many said promoted a misleading message about obesity.

In an editorial Wednesday, Muhtar Kent pledged to publish online a list of the health and well-being partnerships and research activities the company has funded in the last five years.

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This list will be updated every six months and will also include the company's efforts to reduce calories and "responsibly" market its products, he said.

Kent also said the company would create an oversight committee with independent experts to help advise Coca-Cola on investments and academic research.

"I am disappointed that some actions we have taken to fund scientific research and health and well-being programs have served only to create more confusion and mistrust," he wrote in the Wall Street Journal. "I know our company can do a better job engaging both the public health and scientific communities — and we will."

The editorial comes almost two weeks after the New York Times reported that Coca-Cola had contributed $1.5 million last year to help start a nonprofit organization called the Global Energy Balance Network.

According to the story, the network promotes the argument that when considering health, people are overly fixated on how much they eat and drink and do not pay enough attention to exercise.

Critics pointed out that this message -- that health is more about working out than what you eat -- would be convenient for Coca-Cola and its lineup of sugary beverages.

Coca-Cola quickly reacted to the story. A day after the New York Times article was published, the company's chief technical officer, Ed Hays, wrote a blog post saying that the company believed a balanced diet and regular exercise were both key ingredients of a healthy lifestyle.

Later that week, Hays penned an editorial in USA Today and said the company would be more transparent about the research it funded and the nonprofits it supported.

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