Diet Coke plans to defend its use of artificial sweeteners in a series of new print ads, as part of an effort to reassure consumers about the safety of its products amid sagging sales.
The ad, which will ultimately run nationally, appeared in the print edition of USA Today in the Atlanta region today and then in the Atlantic Journal Constitution on Thursday, company spokesman Ben Sheidler said. Entitled, "Quality Products You Can Always Feel Good About," the ad will highlight the benefits and safety of low-calorie and artificial sweeteners found in the Atlanta-based soft drink giant's beverages.
"Time and again, these low- and no-calorie sweeteners have shown to be safe, high-quality alternatives to sugar," the ad states. "In fact, the safety of aspartame is supported by more than 200 studies over the last 40 years."
Sheidler said that one area often overlooked in discussions about obesity is the benefit of drinking no- and low-calorie beverages. But, he said, the company also understands that people have questions about artificial sweeteners.
"We created this print ad to address their concerns and make it easier for them to get the facts," he said.
Many large public health organizations say the sweeteners have no adverse health effects when used in moderation. The Food and Drug Administration, for example, regards aspartame as a safe food ingredient. The American Cancer Society notes that most studies don't associate aspartame use with an increased risk of cancer. The American Heart Association, The American Diabetes Association and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics all have published position statements supporting the moderate use of artificial sweeteners.
However, not all experts agree that all artificial sweeteners are harmless. The public health advocacy group Center for Science in the Public Interest does not recommend the use of aspartame, a sweetener found in many diet drinks including Diet Coke.
"Three independent studies have found that aspartame causes cancer. These studies, in our view, are superior to earlier, industry-sponsored studies that found it did not cause cancer because they used a larger pool of subjects and a more sensitive protocol," said Lisa Lefferts, senior scientist for CSPI.
By subjects, Lefferts means mice and rats.The vast majority of studies on aspatame, whether for or against, are rodent studies. Diet Coke Is A Potent Alcohol Mixer
Lefferts also noted that some studies found that aspartame can trigger headaches in certain sensitive individuals.
The ad is part of a larger campaign by Coke launched earlier this year to shore up a soft drink business that has seen a 1 percent drop in the sales of Coke and a 3 percent drop in the sales of Diet Coke over the past year, according to Beverage Digest. Ads that ran earlier in the year emphasized the company's commitment to fighting the obesity epidemic by offering a wide variety of diet options, options the new ads defend as trustworthy and beneficial.