Almost two dozen doctors have quit the American Academy of Family Physicians after the group announced a deal with Coca-Cola Co. to fund educational materials about soft drinks on the academy's consumer health and wellness Web site.
"Coca-Cola, like other sodas, causes enormous suffering and premature death by increasing the risks of obesity, diabetes, heart attacks, gout and cavities," Dr. Walter Willett, a nutrition expert at Harvard University, said in an e-mail to the Associated Press.
The academy "should be a loud critic of these products and practices, but by signing a deal with Coke their voice has almost surely been muzzled," Willett said.
The six-figure alliance between the academy and Coke is similar to ads decades ago in which doctors said mild cigarettes are safe, Dr. William Walker, public health officer for Contra Costa County near San Francisco, told the AP.
He and 20 other doctors who work with his local medical practice have quit the American Academy of Family Physicians in protest.
Coke won't have any control over editorial content on the Web site, said academy CEO Dr. Douglas Henley. The new online information, to be posted in January, will note the link between soft drinks and obesity and focus on sugar-free alternatives.