New York-- A US interest group on Tuesday sharply criticized the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry's new partnership with soft-drink giant Coca-Cola, saying the deal will make the dental group a "captive" of Coke.
The partnership, which the AAPD announced Monday, involves a $1-million research grant to the academy from Coca-Cola, the world's largest soft-drink manufacturer.
The deal quickly drew fire from the non-profit group Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI).
On Tuesday Washington-based CSPI issued a statement urging the AAPD to abandon its partnership with "a company whose products cause tooth decay, obesity and other health problems in children."
But AAPD President Dr. David K. Curtis described the Coke partnership as an "appropriate arms" length relationship."
He told Reuters Health that research money from Coca-Cola will go through the AAPD to independent, university researchers, and that Coke--like all other AAPD corporate sponsors--"will have no say-so" into the specifics of that research.
Coca-Cola will also help the AAPD "create public and educational programs, based on science, that promote improved dental health for children," according to the academy.
But the CSPI blasted the idea of Coke's involvement in any educational efforts aimed at children's oral health.
"It's hard to imagine a professional association of dentists choosing a more inappropriate partner to fund educational programs," CSPI Director Dr. Michael F. Jacobson said in the group's statement.
"Coke's idea of education is spending billions 'educating' kids to consume caffeine- and sugar-laden soda," he added.
And, the CSPI contends, no matter how Coca-Cola's money is used, the deal makes it "extremely unlikely" that the AAPD will take stands that aren't in the soda giant's interests--such as opposing soft-drink machines in schools.
But according to Curtis, it would be "impossible" for Coke to hold such sway over the academy.
"Our corporate sponsors have absolutely no say in our positions," he said.
This is not the first time the CSPI has taken aim at Coca-Cola. In 2001, it accused the company of using its marketing rights for the movie "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" to push junk food on kids.
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