Friday, 17 May 2013

The unauthorized history of Coca-Cola (satire)

Coca-cola was originally promoted as a drink "offering the virtues of coca without the vices of alcohol." Until 1903, a typical serving contained 60mg of cocaine. Today, it still contains an extract of coca leaves. The Coca-Cola Company imports eight tons of coca leaf from South America each year -- a substance that, if carried into the country by any regular citizen, would result in their arrest and incarceration for "drug trafficking..."
Still Using Coca Leaves
If you hike a bag of coca leaves through U.S. customs on your way home from, say, Peru, you might be arrested for the federal crime of drug trafficking. Coca-Cola, however, imports nearly eight tons of coca leaves from South America each year (source:, which appears to be an authority on coca leaves, imagine that...), and still uses those leaves in preparing its soft drinks. The cocaine is, reportedly, removed from the leaves before the leaves are used in the coca-cola manufacturing process. I'm just wondering where all that cocaine really goes. Do they destroy it? Do they sell it out the back door? Does the cocaine go back to Peru? I actually emailed Coca-Cola and asked them this every question. So far, I've received no response other than, "Hold on, we'll reply as soon as we're done snorting..." and I have no idea what that means. 
Coca-Cola Declares War on Water
Your body needs water, and lots of it! But if you're drinking water, according to the way Coca-Cola once thought, you're not drinking a Coke, and that's bad for business. The solution? Declare war on water. 

Enter Coca-Cola's Water Product: Dasani
Coca-Cola apparently realized they couldn't prevent the entire world from drinking water, even by brainwashing Olive Garden waiters, and the next best thing to declaring war on water is, of course, making money from it. Enter Coca-Cola's water product, "Dasani," now sold everywhere. Don't confuse Dasani with spring water. It's just plain old tap water (that starts out with all the same contaminants you get out of your kitchen faucet), but filtered and "enhanced" with some minerals. 

It's no coincidence that the name "Coca-Cola" starts with the name of the leaf used to manufacture cocaine: the coca leaf. From the late 1800's, Coca-Cola contained varying amounts of cocaine (about 60mg of cocaine per serving in 1900) all the way up until 1929, when cocaine was finally removed from its formula. That was when all the doctors and dentists who were prescribing coke to their patients said, in unison, "Guess we'll have to start actually addressing their medical problems instead of sending them home with more cocaine." Simultaneously, Coca-Cola executives probably said, "Guess we'll have to find another ingredient that's highly addictive." Hence, caffeine. But that's not until later in this story.
The "Cola" part of the name comes from the "kola" nut -- a nut containing yet an addictive chemical: caffeine. Combine caffeine and cocaine and, not surprisingly, you get a powerful drink called "Coca-Cola" that benefited strongly (from a marketing point of view) from the addictive traits of the narcotic / caffeine combination. It's "The Real Thing," all right, real substance addiction! Hard drugs and Starbucks, all in the same cup!
Not surprisingly, the Coca-Cola company claimed all sorts of health benefits for their product. Coca-cola was introduced in 1886 as "a valuable brain-tonic and cure for all nervous afflictions." Its slogan in 1900 was, "For headache and exhaustion, drink Coca-Cola," a slogan that now seems ridiculous for a beverage perhaps known best for its ability to cause obesity. A 1904 Coca-Cola slogan claims, "Coca-Cola is a delightful, palatable, healthful beverage," and even in recent years, Coca-Cola has called its product "a wholesome beverage." In my view, this is sort of like your neighborhood crack dealer saying, "Yep, this here crack will cure that cancer in no time!" Of course, Coke finally took the coke out of their formula, but they're still using coca leaves.
Anyone who has actually been to Peru, by the way, knows that coca leaves are frequently chewed by Peruvian natives (and the ancient Incas, of course) to aid in altitude sickness and enhance stamina. It's what helps a 110-pound Peruvian male wearing leather sandals sprint up a 14,000 foot mountain carrying the 80-pound pack. I know this because I hired the guy to carry my pack. Within seconds, he had sprinted up the mountain with all of my belongings and was out of sight. Hmmm...
But getting back to coca leaves, when they are chewed in their natural form, coca leaves hardly present a drug addiction problem, it's only when they're refined that they become hard drugs. As an occasional medicinal herb, the coca leaf actually does have health-enhancing characteristics, but it seems likely that Coca-Cola was a lot more interested in its profit characteristics than its health characteristics.
As an example of just how important profits are to Coca-Cola, take a look at the company's effort to wipe out competing beverages... like water!
August, 2001: Coca-Cola announces the launch of an assault against tap water in restaurants, code-named "H2No." (No, I'm not making this up...) They begin with the Olive Garden restaurants, describing customers' ordering of water as a kind of affliction. From their own site, "Olive Garden restaurants... were facing a high water incidence rate." (emphasis added).
A "high water incidence rate?" Sounds bad, doesn't it? Sounds like an insidious anthrax attack. To combat this threat, they came up with their "water reduction plan." This plan involved the re-education of waiters to suggest a "profitable beverage" in place of water. Olive Garden restaurants, according to the Coke site, liked the program so much that they incorporated it into their monthly skills training exercises. "Here's a new skill, folks, we're going to force all our customer to order a coke before they die of thirst..."
Believe it or not, they even developed an employee incentive contest, based on how much Coke the restaurant servers could get customers to drink. The program was called, "Just Say No to H2O" and it's sort of like a college frat game where you see how much beer you can get the new pledges to drink in one night, without actually killing them. (Because if they're dead, you can't force them to clean up the frat house the next morning...)
If it sounds like madness, you're right! Giving consumers a choice of drinks is considered polite; declaring war on water is something altogether different. The slogans chosen by Coca-Cola weren't pro-Coke, they were anti-water. "Just Say No to H2O" sounds sort of like the cry of a political rally. Just imagine a herd of overweight Coca-cola executives marching around outside Olive Garden restaurants, holding up signs and declaring that water is actually BAD for you.
As waiters were selling more Coke to customers, profits were flowing into the restaurants -- and into Coca-Cola's coffers -- but what about the health cost of drinking soft drinks? It is well known that consumption of soft drinks is a strong contributing factor in obesity -- a condition that, according to former Surgeon General David Satcher, causes 300,000 deaths each year and $117 billion in unnecessary health bills from diseases like diabetes and clogged arteries. Heck, that's almost as much as Coca-cola spends on advertising and celebrity endorsements! "Hi, I'm a well known sports celebrity with the brain of a naked mole rat. And I drink Coke!"
Today, there's really no question that soft drink consumption directly promotes a variety of chronic diseases. For starters, here's evidence of how soft drink consumption multiplies a person's risk of diabetes. (See for a summary.)
And just this year, new research was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition linking the consumption of high-fructose corn syrup (the primary sweetener in soft drinks) with both diabetes and obesity: 
Clearly, soft drinks are a hazard to the health of any individual (intelligent or otherwise) who chooses to consume them. Some of the other health effects now being attributed to soft drinks include loss of bone density, blood acidosis, kidney stress, immune system suppression, ADHD and even dramatic mood swings -- these are the claims by well-known health and nutrition authors, including many prominent MDs.
As the profits flow into Coca-Cola, who pays the cost for the health effects caused by Coca-Cola products? You guessed it: you do. The consumer foots the bill not only for the product, but also for the doctor, hospital and insurance costs that inevitably appear as a result of consuming this health-harming beverage. I'm just guessing, but for every dollar a person spends on soft drinks, there might be as much as $4 - $5 in long-term costs to society.
Not surprisingly, Coca-Cola's "H2No" web pages didn't stay on their site for very long. They were taken down on August 2, 2001 and haven't re-appeared since. Apparently, they no longer want to be known as the "anti-water" company. Because that would be, well, stupid. More importantly, it would go against their brand spankin' new product offering -- get this -- water!
Once Coca-Cola had a profitable water product in the mix, their message about water was magically transformed into something a lot more pro-water. Hooking up with, Coca-Cola solicited water product branding ideas from consumers, promising a $5,000 award to the best idea submitted. Their idea solicitation text read, "Many doctors have suggested that people should drink eight glasses of water a day. What ideas can you think of, that would make it easier for people to drink more water?"
Where was the "many doctors" attitude when Coca-Cola was pushing the H2No program? Naturally, it was nowhere to be found. There were profits to be had, after all! It's amazing how Coca-cola seems to be able to find doctors to make sweeping statements that support whatever product is being pushed at the time, even if those statements contradict the company's former position on the subject... heck, I bet Coke could even find a doctor that would testify before Congress that, "caffeine is not addictive!"

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