November 20, 2015
Coca-Cola is increasingly criticized for its use of unhealthy ingredients and poor business practices. In spite of its increasingly bad reputation, some details of its operations remain little-known. Here are five of Coke’s darkest secrets:
Coca-Cola was originally called Pemberton’s French Wine Coca and contained a mixture of Peruvian coca leaves, kola nut, damiana, and cocaethylene (cocaine mixed with alcohol). Druggist John Stith Pemberton invented his French Wine Coca in Atlanta, Georgia and it became very popular across the southeastern United States.
Once Atlanta introduced prohibition in 1886, Pemberton responded by creating a non-alcoholic version of his already popular beverage. The wine ingredient was replaced with sugar syrup and the new concoction was called Coca-Cola. The soda was marketed for its medicinal effects and became very popular among high-class white society. It was referred to by many as an “intellectual beverage.”
The Coca-Cola recipe was a closely guarded secret, but in 1891, an Atlanta newspaper reported what many had already suspected: Coca-Cola contained cocaine. Coke was forced to change its marketing strategy and began referring to their product as “refreshing,” rather than promoting any medicinal advantages. Coca-Cola began taking cocaine out its soft drink in 1903 because of racially-promoted fears among white society.
“Anyone with a nickel, black or white, could now drink the cocaine-infused beverage. Middle-class whites worried that soft drinks were contributing to what they saw as exploding cocaine use among African-Americans. Southern newspapers reported that “negro cocaine fiends” were raping white women, the police powerless to stop them.”
Cocaine was eventually made illegal in the United States in 1914, but it wasn’t until 1929 that Coca-Cola perfected its formula. Before that year, the psychoactive elements of the coca leaf could still be found in the soda in small amounts.
4. Merchandise No.5
The Coca-Cola soft drink became completely cocaine-free in 1929, but coca leaf extract is still used to this day as an active ingredient in the internationally popular soda. The ecgonine alkaloid, which gives cocaine its accelerating effect on the brain, is extracted from the coca leaf before processing.
The Stepan Corporation, a New Jersey-based chemical processing company, performs the extraction on the coca leaves. Stepan has an arrangement with the DEA and is the only group allowed to import the coca leaf into the United States. 175,000 kilograms of coca leaves are imported into the United States each year by Stepan. That is a street value equivalent to roughly $21 billion of cocaine, according to the United Nations.
So what happens to the actual cocaine processed by Stepan? It is hauled away from the facility in armored trucks and then sold to Mallinckrodt, a pharmaceutical company whose United States headquarters are based in St. Louis, Missouri. The coca leaf extract is referred to as Merchandise No. 5.
In 2001, a lawsuit was filed in a Miami federal court against the Coca-Cola corporation and two of their Latin American bottlers – Bebidas y Alimentos and Panamerican Beverages, Inc. (Panamco). The lawsuit was filed by the United Steelworkers Union and the International Labor Rights Fund. Oscar Dario Soto Polo and 8 other union members, who were workers at the previously stated bottling factories, had allegedly been assassinated by “death squads” at the time of the lawsuit.
Right-wing militias of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), Colombia’s leading paramilitary organization, carried out the killings. The AUC has strong ties with the Colombian military and is also silently backed by factions of the country’s business elite. The suit claimed a plant manager publicly proclaimed “he had given an order to the paramilitaries to carry out the task of destroying the union.” The assassinations were never in question, but Coca-Cola stated they were not responsible. A spokesperson for the Atlanta-based company said in 2001, “Coca-Cola denies any connection to any human-rights violation of this type.” The spokesman added, “We do not own or operate the plants.” The plants were in fact owned by a Mexican-based company called FEMSA.
According to the FEMSA website:
“FEMSA and The Coca-Cola Company have been long-term strategic partners since Coca-Cola FEMSA was created in 1993. FEMSA is the majority shareholder of Coca-Cola FEMSA, with 48.9% ownership of the outstanding capital stock and 63.0% of the voting rights. The Coca-Cola Company owns 28.7% of Coca-Cola FEMSA’s outstanding capital stock and 37.0% of the voting interest. Public shareholders own the remaining 22.4% of the outstanding capital stock (with limited voting rights).”
Fanta was invented in Germany in 1941. Its German-born creator, Max Keith, was also director of Coca-Cola Deutschland, which was Coke’s most successful foreign operation by 1939. It was rumored but never confirmed that Fanta joined and supported the Nazi party.
Due to embargoes and other sanctions, Coca-Cola Deutschland was no longer able to acquire the ingredients to make Coca-Cola. Instead of halting production, Coca-Cola Deutschland created a new drink with domestically available ingredients—Fanta Orange—and continued business operations.
After World War II was over, all Fanta profits were turned over to Coca-Cola, along with the Fanta product line.
1. Addiction to Coca-Cola
While many increasingly understand the toxicity of the drink, few are aware of its intensely addictive nature. 30-year-old Natasha Harris of New Zealand died an unnatural death—one experts attributed to her two gallon-a-day Coke addiction.
According to the Huffington Post:
“A pathologist, Dr. Dan Mornin, testified at an inquest Thursday that she probably suffered from hypokalemia, or low potassium, which he thinks was caused by her excessive consumption of Coke and overall poor nutrition.”
Addictive ingredients in Coke include caffeine, and perhaps even more startling is the sugar or high fructose corn syrup content. A 2013 study from Connecticut College showed that foods with high sugar content are just as addictive and dangerous as heroin:
“This correlated well with our behavioral results and lends support to the hypothesis that high-fat/ high sugar foods can be thought of as addictive, […] Even though we associate significant health hazards in taking drugs like cocaine and morphine, high-fat/ high-sugar foods may present even more of a danger because of their accessibility and affordability,” the study explained.
What’s so frightening about addiction to Coke is that high fructose corn syrup is highly damaging to health. As Anti-Media previously reported:
“The average 20-ounce soda contains 15 teaspoons of sugar, all of it high fructose corn syrup. When sugar is consumed in such high doses, it becomes a toxin.
“As part of the chemical process used to make high fructose corn syrup, the glucose and fructose — which are naturally bound together — become separated. This allows the fructose to mainline directly into your liver, which turns on a factory of fat production in your liver called lipogenesis. This leads to fatty liver, the most common disease in America affecting over 90 million people. High fructose corn syrup is the true culprit of the current epidemic of heart attacks, strokes, cancer, dementia, and of course, Type 2 diabetes, which is a result of fatty liver.”
This article (Coca-Cola’s Five Darkest Secrets) is free and open source. You have permission to republish this article under a Creative Commons license with attribution to theAntiMedia.org. Anti-Media Radio airs weeknights at 11pm Eastern/8pm Pacific. If you spot a typo, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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