The 'real' deadly thing
Is Coca-Cola slowly killing us and the rest of the world?
By Randy Jurado Ertll 07/05/2012
The Associated Press reported in March that “Coke directed its suppliers last year to change the way they manufacture caramel to reduce levels of the chemical 4-methylimidazole, or 4-MEI, which California has listed as a carcinogen.”
This revelation offers an opportunity to delve deeper into “Inside Coca-Cola: A CEO’s Life Story of Building the World’s Most Popular Brand,” by Neville Isdell with David Beasley. The book focuses on how Coca-Cola increased its market share and dominance in South Africa, the Philippines, Germany and other countries, ultimately becoming one of the most recognizable brands in the world.
But what are the hidden secrets of Coca-Cola that Isdell and Beasley do not talk about? Let’s examine some of them.
This book fails to mention how multinational corporations such as Coca-Cola negatively affect the availability of natural resources, especially drinking water, in developing countries, and how human rights have been violated in countries such as Colombia. It also does not admit the caramel sweetener is a carcinogen.
Unfortunately, drinking Coca-Cola has become part of our daily lives. Many of us have grown accustomed to having a Coke with a meal — without ever thinking of its negative health effects.
Most consumers do not even realize how effective Coca-Cola marketing is. We have evolved to ignore the company’s poor record on environmental issues and violations of human rights, particularly in regard to poor people in developing countries.
Isdell’s job is obviously to promote Coca-Cola in a positive light, as the corporation made him very wealthy. He does like to emphasize that he began his career at Coca-Cola as a truck driver, where he observed and learned from seasoned Coca-Cola employees. He describes his rise in the company, ultimately becoming head of Coca-Cola in the Philippines. He is proud that they beat Pepsi through marketing gimmicks and political leveraging.
Isdell makes Coca-Cola seem like a righteous corporation, one that cares about developing countries and their people. He does mention how certain scandals were resolved legally, but he keeps it brief and purposely avoids going into them in any depth.
Deval Patrick, a former Coke executive who is now governor of Massachusetts, pointed out that certain discrimination did take place at Coca-Cola, where minorities were not promoted. A lawsuit regarding those hiring practices was settled out of court and the details remain confidential.
Isdell also neglects to mention how Coca-Cola has gone into certain countries to establish manufacturing plants that take away community drinking water, since they prefer using that to produce Coca-Cola. This has created great controversy in places like India, and several activists have been murdered for denouncing Coca-Cola’s overuse and monopoly of drinkable water to produce its product. In addition, in Mexico, Coca-Cola has purposely developed a campaign titled “Super Heroes,” targeting youth.
Isdell had to admit in the book that a lawsuit was settled that accused Coca-Cola of supporting and funding death squads in Colombia, ones that murdered environmental activists. This is one of the reasons why now-Gov. Patrick resigned from Coca-Cola.
Isdell does not directly address how consuming too much Coca-Cola can lead to diabetes, obesity and other health ailments. It is pretty much a sugar-filled drink and recent research conducted by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has indicated that the caramel coloring additives have contributed to cancer.
Some activists have denounced environmental groups, especially the Sierra Club, for becoming too cozy with certain corporations and special interest groups. For example, Isdell became so influential through Coca-Cola that he gained a board seat on the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). This ultimately benefits Coca-Cola, since they now have an ally on the inside of a worldwide environmental group.
The book, although lacking in detail with regard to controversial issues related to water availability and use, provides an opportunity to question how multinational corporations harm the environments of developing countries and how human rights and labor rights are many times ignored in poor developing countries — issues that most US customers are probably not even aware of.
Some developing countries are so desperate to obtain foreign investments that their governments are willing to turn a blind eye when it comes to environmental, labor and human rights abuses. Many times they are accomplices, since they also profit and become wealthy from these business partnerships.
Coca-Cola should not be in the business of seeking profits at the expense of hurting people’s health, disregarding their human rights and degrading the environment — at home or abroad.
Remember this the next time you consider ordering “the real thing” with your next sandwich.
Randy Jurado Ertll, author of the book “Hope in Times of Darkness: A Salvadoran American Experience,” is executive director of El Centro de Accion Social in Pasadena. Visit his Web site, randyjuradoertll.com.