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Shaquille O'Neal under fire by consumer group for new soda line

July 17, 2013|By Ricardo Lopez
  • Former NBA player Shaquille O'Neal is coming under fire for hawking a new line of sodas that critics say promote obesity and other health problems. Above, O'Neal answers questions at a news conference in Florida.
Former NBA player Shaquille O'Neal is coming under fire for hawking… (Phelan M. Ebenhack / Associated…)

File this one under the Celebrities Under Fire column:

Shaquille O'Neal, the retired NBA player, recently announced he was launching a line of low-calorie sodas with Arizona Beverages called Soda Shaq Cream Soda. 

But like other celebrities who hawk sodas, O'Neal has come under fire by some consumer groups for promoting sugar-laden soft drinks. 

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The Center for Science in the Public Interest issued a missive against the former Los Angeles Laker.

"Clearly, Shaq knows better," said the group's executive director, Michael F. Jacobson. "He has said he avoids soda himself, and worries about obesity and diabetes. But now he's using his name, face and reputation to make those health problems even bigger. It's shameful hypocrisy, presumably motivated by money."

The cream soda line comes in four flavors: vanilla, blueberry, strawberry and orange. They're sold in 23.5-ounce cans bearing a cutout of O'Neal's face. The nutritional facts label says each drink contains three servings, and the drink is sweetened with cane sugar, the company said.

At 90 calories per serving, that means each can has 270 calories. And 72 grams of sugar. According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, that translates to 17 teaspoons of sugar in each can.  

The organization took issue with O'Neal's endorsement of the product partly because the NBA player has appeared on news shows to say he's seen family members struggle with diabetes.

Last year, O'Neal began hawking Quick Sticks, packets of glucose intended to give those with diabetes a quick boost if their blood sugar falls too low.

O'Neal isn't alone, however. Beyonce has been criticized for being the face of Pepsi Co.'s latest advertising campaign. And who can forget Paula Deen's endorsement of a diabetes medication -- which was announced the same day she told the world she had been diagnosed with Type II diabetes years earlier.  

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ricardo.lopez@latimes.com

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