A handful of local Coca-Cola managers wrote letters to Mayor Jim Watson expressing their “concern” over an Ottawa Public Health plan to launch a social media campaign about sugar-sweetened beverages—and reminding him of the company’s economic contributions to the region.
“On behalf of Coca-Cola Refreshments Canada, I am very concerned that Ottawa Public Health is considering advertisements targeting the beverage industry, with a particular focus on sugar sweetened beverages,” wrote Russell Coburn, distribution Centre Manager Ottawa/Outaouais. “My concern is that public funds would be used to portray a single product category as a leading cause of obesity.”
The mayor received an identical letter from other local Coca-Cola managers.
Ottawa Public Health’s Healthy Eating and Active Living Strategy, which includes a “Social media campaign on health effects of consuming sugar sweetened beverages including soft drinks, energy and sports drinks, flavoured milks and juices,” according to a Board of Health Report.
Watson wrote in a letter back to Coburn that the strategy will give the public information on healthy eating habits, “which necessarily includes addressing the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages.” However, he said no one supplier, product or company will be targeted, he wrote.
Coburn’s letter also stressed the company’s “significant economic presence” in the area. “We are proud to employ approximately 200 employees in two facilities and indirectly employ hundreds of people across this region,” he wrote.
The letter also included an accounting of the company’s charity and health-promotion work.
“We want to work collaboratively with City Council and Ottawa Public Health to identify solutions to address obesity. An advertising campaign targeting a single product category however, would only lead to undermine efforts to find meaningful solutions.”