The chief science and health officer for Coca-Cola, Rhona Applebaum, is departing from the company after the beverage maker was scrutinized for its funding of an anti-obesity organization.
A statement released by the company said, “Applebaum has made the decision to retire, and a transition is under way.”
Applebaum was involved in a controversy involving the obesity-fighting, non-profit company known as the Global Energy Balance Network. Leaked emails show that Coca-Cola played a very big role in determining the messages and direction of the network.
According to reports, Coca-Cola helped pick the leaders of the network, edited their mission statement and suggested articles and videos to be used on their website. In one email, the president of the network said that the goal was to change the common perception that Coca-Cola is a problem in the lives of millions of people.
Applebaum was the key representative of Coca-Cola in negotiating with the network. Most analysts believe that Coca-Cola used the network in order to deflect criticism regarding the beverage company’s role in the obesity epidemic of the United States.
Chief Executive Officer for Coca-Cola Muhtar Kent said, “Our support for scientific research was based on the desire to identify a more holistic, workable approach based on the best evidence. It has become clear to us that there was not a sufficient level of transparency with regard to the company’s involvement with the Global Energy Balance Network. Clearly, we have more work to do to reflect the values of this great company in all that we do."
Reports indicate that Coca-Cola gave the Global Energy Balance Network more than $1.5 million during their relationship. The network has stated that the money that had been given to them by Coca-Cola played no role in their work. Some of this money has since been returned to Coca-Cola.
The Global Energy Balance Network is operated by the University of Colorado School of Medicine.