business news in context, analysis with attitude

…with brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…

• The New York Times reports that a new study published in The BMJ and The Journal of Public Health Policy says that “Coca-Cola and other Western food and beverage giants … have helped shape decades of Chinese science and public policy on obesity and diet-related illnesses like Type 2 diabetes and hypertension.”

These companies, operating through a group called the International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI), “cultivated key Chinese officials in an effort to stave off the growing movement for food regulation and soda taxes that has been sweeping the west.”

An example: “Happy 10 Minutes, a Chinese government campaign that encouraged schoolchildren to exercise for 10 minutes a day, would seem a laudable step toward improving public health in a nation struggling with alarming rates of childhood obesity. But the initiative and other official Chinese efforts that emphasized exercise as the best way to lose weight were notable for what they didn’t mention: the importance of cutting back on the calorie-laden junk foods and sugary beverages that have become ubiquitous in the world’s second largest economy.”

It isn’t just in China - ILSI “has 17 branches,” the story says, “most of them in emerging economies like Mexico, India, South Africa and Brazil, and promotes itself as a bridge between scientists, government officials and multinational food companies.” ILSI also maintains, the Times writes, that it is “committed to backing ‘evidence-based food and nutrition research’ and that it did not conduct lobbying activities or make policy recommendations in the countries where it operates.”

Coca-Cola tells the Times that that it has been “changing the way it funded scientific research through greater transparency and by ending its practice of providing the lion’s share of money for studies. In recent years, it added, Coca-Cola has sought to address mounting obesity in China by offering an array of new sugar-free beverages and through improved nutrition labeling on products. ‘We recognize that too much sugar isn’t good for anyone,’ it said.”

First of all, good for Coke … where they seem to realize that this stuff can come back and bite them in the rear end of their vending machines. As for ILSI … Gee, isn’t it somehow reassuring to know that it isn’t just US government officials who can be influenced by lobbying dollars to look past science and common sense. It is everybody else, too. We are the world, baby.

• The Cincinnati Business Courier reports that Kroger Co. will raise $1.2 billion in debt later this month with much of it planned to pay off existing debt.” Kroger, the story says, “plans to issue two series of notes, according to a new Securities and Exchange filing. It will issue $600 million in 10-year notes due in January 2029 and $600 million in 30-year notes due in January 2049. Both series are to be issued Jan. 14.”

The story notes that “Kroger said the debt it will pay down includes long-term debt that comes due this month … Kroger has invested more than $1 billion in the past year and a half in increasing its online sales and home delivery capabilities.”
KC's View: