Coca-cola has spent millions of pounds on funding research bodies to disprove the link between drinking sugary drinks and obesity, it has been alleged.
An investigation by The Times suggested the drinks giant spent £4.68m on setting up the European Hydration Institute, a body that recommends that people drink sports and soft drinks of the type sold by Coca-Cola.
A number of other British research organisations have been given funding under the scheme, including UKActive, the British Nutrition Foundation, the University of Hull, Homerton University Hospital, the National Obesity Forum, the British Dietetic Association, Obesity Week 2013 and the UK Association for the Study of Obesity.
Obesity is currently a major drain on the UK economy, costing the NHS an estimated £5.1bn each year and killing 53,000 people.
Following the news, the UK business has promised to publish details off all research funded over the last five years. Shares in the company are currently down 0.21 per cent at $41.89.
Jon Woods, general manager of Coca-Cola in the UK and Ireland, said:
We do it because, like many organisations, we need the evidence that scientific research produces to make business decisions about our drinks and the ingredients we use, as well as to better understand aspects of health, like calorie intake and hydration, that are very relevant to a soft drinks company.
I know that, as a major food and drink manufacturer, Coca-Cola has a role to play in tackling obesity. We are taking action and doing so necessitates meetings and partnerships with a range of third parties, including academics, healthcare professionals, NGOs, charities and the Government.