Doctors are incensed by a letter from Coca-Cola giving them tips on how to discuss the benefits of diet soft drinks with their patients.
The company's South Pacific president Bruno Filipi has written to 22,000 Australian GPs saying Coca-Cola wanted to help find a solution to obesity and that included artificially sweetened soft drinks.
He said there was confusion about low-kilojoule sweeteners used in popular drinks such as Coke Zero, Diet Coke and Sprite Zero, including question marks over their benefits and safety.
Some health experts have raised concerns about the long-term use of sweeteners such as saccharin and aspartame but regulatory bodies such as Food Standards Australia and New Zealand have found them to be safe.
The letter gives doctors a guide to help answer questions from patients, including how diet soft drinks can help manage weight by "satisfying a sweet tooth".
"Liking a sweet taste is universal and no-kilojoule sweeteners can increase the pleasure of eating without contributing significantly to kilojoule intake," the guide explained.
City Beach GP and Healthway chairwoman Rosanna Capolingua said the letter was a desperate bid to get doctors to market soft drink.
"They must be deluded to think doctors won't see this for what it is - a misguided attempt to push back at the health advice that people are better off not drinking soft drink," Dr Capolingua said.
Dr Capolingua said artificially-sweetened drinks were not the answer - instead the real goal was to stop feeding the desire for a very sweet taste.
Ironically, an arm of the doctors' own industry group handled the mail-out. AMPCo Direct, a subsidiary of the Australian Medical Association and publisher of the Medical Journal of Australia, provided the database of doctors' details.