Coca-Cola Ad Defends Aspartame

Beverage giant continues push back against health concerns

Coca-Cola is continuing to fight back against health critics, this time by defending sugar alternatives like aspartame.

A print ad touting the safety of artificial sweeteners was slated to run today in issues of USA Today in the Atlanta area, the beverage giant is based, according to the Associated Press. The ad is also set to run in the Atlanta Journal Constitution on Thursday, and in the Chicago Tribune next week.

"Our use of high-quality, low- and no- calorie sweeteners, including aspartame, allows us to give people great-tasting options they can feel good about," reads a copy of the ad posted to Twitter by Beverage Digest. " Time and again, these low- and no-calorie sweeteners have shown to be safe, high-quality alternatives to sugar."

It's Coca-Cola's first ad explicitly defending its use of artificial sweeteners in an ad, but the print execution is an extension of the company's campaign, launched this January, to combat detractors who blame it for contributing to obesity, by pointing to the host of diet and other beverages it sells beyond traditional, sugary cola.

While studies have debunked links between aspartame and increased cancer risk, the AP also notes that sales diet sodas are continuing to fall at a faster rate than regular soda, citing Beverage Digest data.

Non-profit health group the Center for Science in the Public Interest, one of Coca-Cola's most vocal critics, was quick to hit back at the ad. "Aspartame has been found to cause cancer—leukemia, lymphoma, and other tumors—in laboratory animals, and it shouldn’t be in the food supply," said CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson. "We certainly want Coca-Cola to shift its product mix toward lower- and no-calorie drinks, but aspartame’s reputation isn’t worth rehabilitating with this propaganda campaign. The company would be better off phasing out its use of aspartame and accelerating its research into safer, natural sweeteners such as those extracted from the stevia plant."

@GabrielBeltrone Gabriel Beltrone is a frequent contributor to Adweek.