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The not-so-sweet side of Beyoncé’s Pepsi deal

FILE PHOTO: Singer Beyonce Knowles arrives at the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute Benefit celebrating the opening of "Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations" exhibition in New York, May 7, 2012.

Lucas Jackson/Reuters

Why is Beyoncé promoting a beverage that has been linked to childhood obesity and other health problems?

That's what the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy organization, wants to know.

The organization has launched a campaign urging the pop singer to ditch a $50-million endorsement deal with PepsiCo. As part of the deal, Beyoncé's face will appear on limited-edition Pepsi cans and she will also appear in commercials promoting the soft drink, according to the New York Times.

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In return, Pepsi will support the singer's creative projects, including a planned advertising blitz for her next album, expected out next year.

But the CSPI says the deal is a bad decision on the singer's part, given her status as a role model to countless young people. In an open letter to the star, the association's executive director Michael Jacobson wrote that "by lending your name and image to PepsiCo, you are associating those positive attributes with a product that is quite literally sickening Americans."

The organization says that each sugary drink consumed a day boosts the likelihood a child will become obese.

While beverage associations continue to argue that sugary drinks aren't driving childhood obesity rates, there is evidence that pop and other sugar-filled beverages are a contributing factor.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg recently took on the issue of sugary drinks by banning the sale of pop in containers that are larger than 473 millilitres.

Of course, sugary drinks are only part of the problem. A complex array of factors, including the walkability of neighbourhoods, access to physical activity and a person's diet all play a role in the debate over obesity.

But with childhood obesity rates at ever-rising levels, is it time for celebrities such as Beyoncé to rethink their affiliation with the makers of sugar-sweetened beverages?

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About the Author

Carly Weeks has been a journalist with The Globe and Mail since 2007.  She has reported on everything from federal politics to the high levels of sodium in the Canadian diet. More

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