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Published May 08, 2013, 12:56 PM

Coca-Cola to show calories while ceasing ads aimed at children under 12

ATLANTA — Coca-Cola Co. said Wednesday it will start showing calorie information on all packages and won't advertise to children under 12 anywhere as the world's largest soft-drink maker fights criticism that it is contributing to obesity.

By: Bloomberg News, INFORUM

ATLANTA — Coca-Cola Co. said Wednesday it will start showing calorie information on all packages and won't advertise to children under 12 anywhere as the world's largest soft-drink maker fights criticism that it is contributing to obesity.

The plan, which includes supporting physical activity programs, will apply to more than 200 countries, Atlanta-based Coca-Cola said in a statement. The commitments also urge low- and no-calorie options to emerging markets. Coca-Cola didn't set deadlines or targets for the initiatives.

Chief Executive Officer Muhtar Kent has been working to counter the perception that the soft-drink maker contributes to America's obesity epidemic. Coca-Cola earlier this year introduced advertisements highlighting the company's low- and zero-calorie products and suggesting people pay attention to how many calories they consume in order to manage their weight.

“People in these countries are going to be aware of these health issues so Coke wants to be prepared,” Jack Russo, an analyst with Edward Jones & Co. in St. Louis, said Wednesday in a telephone interview. “The regulators and governments are going to get more involved with this entire issue.”

Almost 36 percent of adults and about 17 percent of children are obese in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. Obesity is measured by using weight and height to calculate a number called body mass index, according to the CDC. An adult who is 5 feet, 9 inches tall and weighs 203 pounds or more is considered obese.

Earlier this year, New York City challenged a ruling throwing out Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg's proposal to restrict sales of large-size soda drinks, calling the plan “contrary to law.”

The city's Board of Health last year approved the plan to cap the size of sugary soft drinks sold in restaurants, movie theaters, stadiums and arenas at 16 ounces (473 milliliters) a cup. In October, groups representing beverage makers, restaurants and theaters asked the court to end the regulation, citing “unprecedented interference.”

Between 2009 and 2011, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo Inc. and the American Beverage Association spent as much as $70 million on lobbying and issue ads, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a proponent of soda taxes. The money helped defeat efforts to enact such levies in 30 states.

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