Personal Injury Blog

Pastors Sue Coca-Cola and Soda Lobbying Organization for Misleading Consumers Over Health Claims

By: Allan M. Siegel

In July of this year, two D.C. pastors, along with a public health group (called the Praxis Project), filed a lawsuit against The Coca-Cola Company and the American Beverage Association, a trade group representing the interests of soda manufacturers. The lawsuit, which has been filed in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, claims that the beverage industry has deceived consumers by downplaying the alleged link between soda consumption and diseases such as obesity and Type-2 diabetes. Specifically, the lawsuit alleges that Coca-Cola executives have spent millions of dollars in advertising, to fool consumers into thinking there is no link between soda consumption and disease. In fact, a 20 year study of 120,000 adults, published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2011, found that drinking an extra soda per day is associated with weight gain. Other large-scale studies have found that people who drink soda frequently have a greater likelihood of developing Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and gout.

Both pastors are African-American, and one is the senior pastor at D.C.’s historic Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church. The pastors have expressed that they see this lawsuit as vindicating the rights of minorities, in particular, out of concern that soda consumption is particularly damaging to the health of minorities. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly half of all African-Americans and 42 percent of Latinos suffer from obesity, whereas the rate is just over one-third for whites.

This new lawsuit is reminiscent of the lawsuits of the 1990s that were brought against tobacco companies, for misleading consumers about the health risks of smoking. We will be eager to see the outcome of this lawsuit, and whether it has an effect on the advertising practices of the Coca-Cola Company and other food and beverage producers.