CSPI says coke deal makes "Chamber of Secrets" look like "Chamber of Commerce"

WASHINGTON-A worldwide campaign to save Harry Potter from the clutches of the Coca-Cola Company was relaunched today by the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), in anticipation of the November 15 release of "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets." The group says that by aggressively marketing sugar- and caffeine-laden drinks to young fans of the Harry Potter series, Coke is helping fuel the childhood obesity epidemic. CSPI is urging people to visit www.SaveHarry.com, and to send messages to Potter creator J.K. Rowling asking her to stop the junk-food sponsorship of Harry Potter.

"J.K. Rowling should be proud that her wonderful Harry Potter books encourage kids to read," said CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson. "She should be ashamed, though, that her movie deals encourage kids to drink even more 'liquid candy.' Her crass deal with Coke makes the 'Chamber of Secrets' look more like the 'Chamber of Commerce.'"

Although Coke products don't appear in the movie, says CSPI, Coke's exclusive $150-million-marketing arrangement with Warner Bros. plasters familiar Potter icons like owls, castles, and even Harry himself on Coke cans, packaging, or game cards. According to published reports, a television ad campaign will encourage kids to look in Coke packaging for "Golden Snitch" game pieces that offer prizes or codes that allow sneak peeks at online movie previews.

"This deal really illustrates how inverted Coke's scruples are," said Jacobson, whose organization is mounting a nationwide campaign to improve foods available on school grounds. "The company is downright self-congratulatory about not putting vending machines in the fictional Hogwarts school, but real schools are fair game. And while I'm glad Coke is coughing up some of its profits for literacy campaigns, its budget for that is puny compared to what it spends preying on kids."

According to CSPI, soda consumption in the U.S. has doubled over the past 30 years, with companies now producing an average of almost 600 cans per year for every man, woman, and child. Around the world, from Mexico to England, consumption has also been rising.

Each can of soda contains approximately 150 calories and ten teaspoons of sugar. 12-ounce cans, though, are becoming scarcer, displaced by 250-calorie, 20-ounce plastic bottles of soda.

Children who drink soda consume more calories and are more likely to become obese, according to a recent study conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health. Since 1990, obesity rates have climbed alongside the increase in kids' calorie intake.

"Coke, Frutopia, and other brands of 'liquid candy' are prime culprits in the childhood obesity epidemic," said Jacobson. "Moreover, those types of drinks add injury to insult by crowding out genuinely nutritious drinks, like low-fat milk and real fruit juice."

Last year, CSPI and more than 50 consumer and public health groups around the world criticized Rowling and Warner Bros. for the exclusive marketing deal attached to the first Harry Potter movie. The first Save Harry campaign generated global media coverage and more than 20,000 messages to Rowling.