The book begins with a graphic description of the murder of Isidro Gil, a union worker. Coca-Cola has been accused of complicity with paramilitary murders of union members in South America.
In India and Mexico, there are allegations that its bottling plants have drained and polluted local water sources. And of course, many people think the company's product is a fundamental cause of the current epidemic of obesity.
In an interview with Blanding conducted by Tara Lohan, he said:
"Like everyone else I used to have warm, fuzzy feelings about Coke -- all that peace and love and harmony and teaching-the-world-to-sing stuff.
Then I heard about violence against union members in South America, water depletion and pollution overseas, and their contribution to child health problems and I realized things don't necessarily 'go better with Coke.'"
To read the rest of the interview, click the link below.
Coca-Cola is one of the most recognized brands in the world, and in the United States the iconic red and white cans are as American as apple pie. Coca-Cola has been in business for 124 years, and in that time they've grown to reach more than 200 countries, employ nearly 100,000 people, and sell over 3,300 beverage products.
In all, the company touts sales of 1.6 billion servings per day and says their dividends have increased for 48 consecutive years.
Clearly the company is one of not only tremendous growth, but tremendous influence as well. And when it is revealed, as Michael Blanding did in his new book "The Coke Machine -- The Dirty Truth Behind the World's Favorite Soft Drink," that Coca-Cola has a shady side that is kept masterfully concealed from public view, it deserves more than a passing glance.
Coke's Dark Side Revealed
Regular readers of my newsletter are already well aware that soft drinks like Coke are making people fat, as soda is sweetened with high fructose corn syrup. Fructose is actually the number one source of calories in the United States, and it is very clear that it is the primary cause of the obesity epidemic.
You may also be aware that Coke and other soft drinks were heavily marketed to schools prior to 2006 with the intent of hooking kids on their brand early on. Soft-drink contracts that paid schools to dot their halls with soda machines used to be commonplace, although more recently the U.S. soft drinks industry says it has dramatically cut the number of high-calorie soft drinks sold in schools.
What you may not be aware of, however, is shocking information brought to light by Blanding's investigative journalism -- information that puts Coke into an entirely different light:
- Circumstantial evidence suggests that Coca-Cola may have been involved in violence against union members in Columbia and Guatemala, including murder.
- Coke was viewed as a patriotic beverage that supported U.S. troops during WWII. The government even granted Coca-Cola an exemption from sugar rationing so they could stay in production. But at the same time, the German subsidiary of Coke was flourishing and producing soft drinks for the Third Reich.
- Coca-Cola bottling plants in India have dramatically lowered the water supply, drying up wells for local villagers while also dumping cadmium, chromium and other carcinogens into the local environment.
You can read more about "the case against Coke" in Blanding's 2006 article in The Nation. As is the case with many multinational corporations, Coca-Cola seems heartily focused on the profit to their shareholders with little regard for the health of the consumers they serve or the environment of the country in which they operate.
As Blanding told AlterNet about one of Coca-Cola's bottling plants in India:
"I actually went to one of the villages where this was allegedly happening and I saw the wells are completely dry and the one well that did work, I tasted some of the water and I really wished that I hadn't -- it left this really horrible taste in the back of my throat that lasted for hours.
That particular plant was actually closed after a lot of public pressure from these villagers that grew into a statewide campaign, but there have been a number of plants in other places in India that have remained open and are still the subject of controversy."
A Masterful PR Machine
Coca-Cola spends close to $3 billion a year on advertising. With that amount of money it's no wonder the company has managed to hold on to its wholesome reputation.
They are also in the habit of forming strategic alliances with health organizations that make it appear as though Coca-Cola is looking out for your health, which is laughable.
For instance, Diet Coke recently teamed up with the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) to raise awareness for women's heart health programs and was the official "Beverage of Choice" for this year's winter Olympics.
You see, there isn't much that a $3-billion-a-year advertising budget can't buy.
Coca-Cola also engages in a common practice among giant corporations of establishing "independent" companies to act as front groups in the case of any bad press. As Blanding explained in the AlterNet interview:
"As they've gone overseas they have established these independent bottling companies and have bought just enough shares in these companies -- sometimes up to 49 percent -- to ensure they can pretty much control what they do, but when something bad does occur they can shirk responsibility and say that it was a separate company and it wasn't them.
And they have done that very effectively to deflect criticism."
As for their mission of corporate responsibility, Coca-Cola has made some small steps, such as using hybrid trucks, cutting energy costs, and paying to conserve water basins around the world, but again Blanding revealed that these steps are nothing more than a carefully orchestrated front, noting:
" … I found that in many cases they were doing this more as a way to brand themselves as an environmental company and anything that would cost them a good deal of money they were not doing -- they reduced the amount of recycled material in their bottles because that is more expensive and they've lobbied against bottle bills that would affect their bottom line."
All the More Reason to Give Coke the Boot …
From a health perspective, drinking Coke or any soft drink is a disaster. Just one extra can of soda per day can add as much as 15 pounds to your weight over the course of a single year, not to mention increase your risk of diabetes by 85 percent.
From my perspective, there is absolutely NO REASON you or your kids should ever drink soda. If you were stranded in the middle of a desert with no other fluid available, then maybe, but other than that … none, nada, zip, zero. No excuses.
Now, when you add in Coca-Cola's alleged crimes against human rights, the environment and social responsibility, it makes it that much more important to boycott from your life. When you make a purchase you're using those dollars to lend support to the company behind the brand … and if it doesn't match up to your expectations, it's time to withdraw your support.
Coca-Cola, of course, is not unique in their shady dealings. It is rare to find a multinational corporation that is operating according to any level of moral or ethical scruples. Still, that doesn't excuse the behavior or make it any less atrocious.
So the next time you're thinking of making a purchase that will further support this corporate giant, you may want to think twice and instead put your money toward an organization that is more in line with your own value system.
Switching to Pepsi or another brand is a small step in the right direction but you owe it to yourself, your family and your loved ones to make the commitment to permanently eliminate all sodas from your life. If you are having problems eliminating it try Turbo Tapping, which has helped tens of thousands to successfully eliminate this pernicious habit.