The World of Coca-Cola attraction in Atlanta, site of the soft drink giant's corporate headquarters. (image credit Doug Collier/AFP/Getty)
McLean, VA (written by Bruce Horovitz/USA Today) -- Sorry Mayor Bloomberg, but the folks at Coca-Cola say you've got your facts fizzy.
Coca-Cola, the world's largest soft-drink maker, is pushing back against New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's provocative proposal a week ago to limit to 16 ounces the size of sugary drinks that could be sold at city restaurants, theaters and street carts.
"There is no scientific evidence that connects sugary beverages to obesity," says Katie Bayne, Coca-Cola's president of sparkling beverages in North America, in an exclusive interview.
In fact, Bayne says, during the period from 1999 through 2010, when obesity was rising, sugar intake from beverages was decreasing. During that period, she says, sugars from soda consumption fell 39% even as the percentage of obese kids jumped 13% and obese adults climbed 7%.
Mayor Bloomberg was unavailable, but his deputy press secretary, Samantha Levine, says Coke's numbers have more fizz than fact. "The fact remains," she says, "sugary beverages are a key driver of the obesity crisis that is killing 5,800 New Yorkers and costing the city $4 billion annually."
Bayne, who is emerging as a key face at Coke on the sugary drink issue, says she "agrees" with Bloomberg that obesity is a critical issue. "But singling out single brands or foods is not going to help the situation. Working together in partnership will."
Coca-Cola introduced 20 new low-calorie and no-calorie beverages in 2011, bringing the total of its diet and light drinks in the U.S. to 150. That's roughly one-third of its U.S. beverage portfolio, Bayne says.
Marion Nestle, nutrition professor at New York University, doesn't buy Coke's argument. "They're in an awful bind," she says. "They sell expensive sugar water."