LONDON: Coca-Cola, the soft drinks giant, has been criticised by representatives of UK charities over its decision to highlight health claims in its advertising.

The firm's latest TV-led campaign in the UK aims to show that moving more, eating well and drinking Coke in moderation - like the grandparents of today's consumers - can contribute to healthier living.

Malcolm Clark, co-ordinator for Sustain's Children's Food Campaign, told Marketing Week that, while his charity could support and encourage the first of these two aims, he doubted whether drinking Coca-Cola could really be part of a healthy lifestyle.

"It is worth noting how all the bottles in the ad are full sugar versions of Coke and then they sneak in a quick image of Coke Zero at the very end," he said. "I think that says it all about how serious the company really is about changing our drinking habits."

Dr Laura McGowan, executive director at Weight Concern, also said that it was unclear how the ad would help the public live a healthier lifestyle, adding that "reducing the number of 'empty calories' consumed through soft drinks is one key issue".

The company pointed out that the ad "doesn't stand alone and we stand by the importance of communicating on energy balance".

Earlier this year Coca-Cola announced plans to put calorie counts on packaging and to distribute diet options in all its markets as attempted to neutralise arguments that sugary drinks are contributing to health problems.

But last month, a global ad for Coke was banned in the UK by the Advertising Standards Authority on the grounds that it was potentially misleading in its claims of activities that could burn off the 139 calories contained in a standard 330ml can of Coke.

In the US, Coca-Cola is also starting to address concerns about artificial sweeteners in its diet beverage brands, with newspaper ads reassuring consumers that "the safety of aspartame is supported by more than 200 studies over the last 40 years".

Data sourced from Marketing Week, USA Today; additional content by Warc staff