Even the mighty Coca-Cola cannot ignore the health and obesity issues now dogging the multinational food industry, admitted the beverage behemoth's new chairman/ceo Neville Isdell.

Addressing a food industry conference in Rome last night, Isdell told his audience that no manufacturer -- not even Coke -- can ignore consumer tastes, healthy or otherwise.

"That's the reality," he told a Wall Street Journal reporter after delivering his speech. "We can't answer to what's out there philosophically. We have to respond to what consumers want."

Attack being the best form of defense, Isdell slammed critics of the food trade. "Bad science, funny solutions or even scape-goating certain foods which are good or bad," won't solve the obesity crisis, he opined.

The food industry deserved more credit for actions already taken to provide consumers with healthier options and smaller portion sizes. In the case of Coke, Isdell cited the new eight-ounce cans and the C2 mid-calorie cola launched this month. Coca-Cola also offers more than four hundred drinks in addition to its sugary soda, Isdell noted, pointing to zero-calorie Diet Coke.

Forty percent of Americans engage in "absolutely no physical activity at all," he claimed, also citing a study showing that student participation in physical education by US students has declined 13% in the past twenty years.

The food industry must promote more physical activity among adults and children. And winding-up in folksy mode, Isdell could not resists a reference to the Ould Country: "In Ireland, where I come from, half the men just sit and do nothing."

Data sourced from: The Wall Street Journal Online; additional content by WARC staff