Pastors Sue Coca-Cola for Concealing Health Risks of Sugar-Sweetened Beverages

(Photo: REUTERS / George Frey)Bottles of Coca-Cola are seen in a warehouse at the Swire Coca-Cola facility in Draper, Utah March 9, 2011.

Two pastors have filed a lawsuit against Coca-Cola and the American Beverage Association for not disclosing the health risks of sugar-sweetened beverages, arguing that it could be a reason behind the prevalence of diabetes and cardiovascular disease especially in the black and Latino communities.

Pastor William Lamar of Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C., and Pastor Delman Coates of Maryland's Mount Ennon Baptist Church have filed the lawsuit in D.C. Superior Court, according to CBS News.

"The background of this lawsuit is that there's an epidemic of diabetes, cardiovascular disease and a range of other degenerative diseases in the black and Latino communities, and really throughout America. For me, as a pastor, I see the toll it takes on families and children when they lose their parents much too soon," Coates was quoted as saying.

"It breaks my heart and I'm saddened by the way in which we're losing so many people. I'm losing more people to the sweets than to the streets," Coates said.

Lamar commented, "It is a matter of life and death in our communities." 

Coca-Cola has refuted the charges.

"The allegations here are likewise legally and factually meritless, and we will vigorously defend against them," the company said in a statement, according to The Associated Press. "The Coca-Cola Company understands that we have a role to play in helping people reduce their sugar consumption."

A 2015 global report by researchers at Tufts University in Boston looked at the health impact of sugar-sweetened beverages. They found that in 2010, consumption of sugary drinks possibly resulted in approximately 133,000 deaths from diabetes, 45,000 deaths from heart disease, and 6,450 deaths from cancer.

"There's a great deal of misinformation in our communities, and I think that's largely a function of these deceptive marketing campaigns," Coates was quoted as saying.

Lamar argued, "It's almost as if they are selling joy. They are equating this product with the things that people are hoping for – joy, smiles, family. But this product will not deliver that. It delivers the exact opposite. Silence around this issue is violence."