Organic Consumers Association

Tell Coke: Stop Running Ads Claiming that Diet Coke and Aspartame are Healthy

Coca-Cola, the company that donated $1.7 million to defeat last year’s GMO labeling initiative in California, has rolled out an ad campaign carefully and deceptively crafted to convince consumers that aspartame, the artificial sweetener (whose patent was at one time owned by Monsanto) in Diet Coke, is a “healthy alternative” to sugar.

Please sign the letter to the right. Tell Coke: Stop Running Ads Claiming that Diet Coke and Aspartame are Healthy

The new campaign, being tested in the Atlanta and Chicago markets, takes the form of full-page advertisements disguised as public service announcements. The message? Aspartame is perfectly safe. It’s better for you than sugar. Drinking Diet Coke will help you stay thin and healthy.

It’s not true. Multiple studies, including one published in 2010 by the Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine have concluded just the opposite. Aspartame, they say, actually contributes to weight gain by stimulating your appetite. Other studies have revealed that aspartame increases carbohydrate cravings and stimulates fat storage and weight gain.

Not only does aspartame lead to weight gain, but it’s also far from being a “healthy alternative” to sugar or anything else. For decades, aspartame has been the focus of studies declaring it unequivocally unhealthy, and suggesting that it has no place in our food supply. Aspartame has been linked to brain cancer and to the accumulation of formaldehyde, known to cause gradual damage to the nervous system, the immune system and to cause irreversible genetic damage at long-term, low-level exposure.

In1995, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA)  documented 92 aspartame-related symptoms, including migraines, memory loss, seizures, obesity, infertility, dizziness, change in seizures, fatigue, neurological problems and a host of others.

Aspartame is not food. It’s defined as a synthetic compound of two amino acids (l-aspartyl-l-phenylalanine o-methyl ester). It was discovered in 1965 by a chemist researching an anti-ulcer drug for G. D. Searle Co.

In 1975, the FDA put a hold on aspartame’s approval, citing deficiencies in the studies conducted by Searle and its contractors. An analysis of 164 studies of aspartame’s potential impact on human safety found that of the 90 non-industry-sponsored studies, 83 identified one or more problems with aspartame. Of the 74 industry-sponsored studies, all 74 claimed that aspartame was safe.

But in 1981, the FDA approved aspartame as a sweetener for beverages, thanks to Arthur Hayes Hull, Jr., the new FDA commissioner under Ronald Reagan. Hulls was hand-picked for the position by then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who not-coincidentally had previously served as CEO of Searle. Rumsfeld earned a $12-million bonus in 1985 when Monsanto bought Searle. Hull, in the meantime, went on to work for Burston-Marsteller, Searle’s – and Monsanto’s – public relations firm.

It’s a story of corporate greed and dirty politics.

If thousands of consumers complain to Coke’s CEO, Muhtar Kent, and other executives at Coca-Cola, maybe we can shame the company into pulling an ad campaign that is deceptive at best, and dangerous at worst.

Please sign the letter. Tell Coke: Stop Running Ads Claiming that Diet Coke and Aspartame are Healthy