Coca Cola and Pepsi Must Go!

People’s Democracy

Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 33

August 17,


Cola and Pepsi Must Go!

Sen Gupta


year: 1970. In the South American country of Chile, Salvador Allende had just
been elected as president but was yet to be confirmed and sworn in

constitutionally. Allende had won in the face of the whole economic might
of US corporations and the US government, who had funded the campaign of his

Richard Nixon, then president of the United states received a personal call from
Donald Kendall, Chairman of Pepsi Co. This had not been

difficult to set up, given that Richard Nixon had formerly served the

company as its corporate attorney. Kendall arranged for the owner of the

company’s Chilean bottling operation to meet National Security Adviser
Henry Kissinger on September 15, 1970. Hours later, Nixon called in his CIA
chief, Richard Helms, and,
according to Helms’s handwritten notes, ordered the CIA
to prevent Allende’s inauguration as president of Chile.




CIA swung into action. The nature of its operation can be gauged from

the “Eyes only, restricted handling, secret” message to US station
chief of the CIA, Santiago.
From CIA headquarters on October 16, 1970. The message
said, “It is the firm and continuing policy that Allende be overthrown
by a

Please review all your present and possibly new activities to

include propaganda, black operations, surfacing of intelligence or

disinformation, personal contacts, or anything else your imagination can

conjure…” The attempt in 1970 failed as the CIA found it difficult to

the Chilean army. But they persisted, egged on by persistent prompting

US multinationals like PepsiCo, ITT (the forerunner of AT&T) and


in 1973 they engineered the assassination of
American interests were protected once again and the Chilean people

paid for their “mistake” with more than 15,000 dead, more than 30,000

prisoners, more than 100,000 brutally 
tortured, more than 200,000 dismissed

for political reasons, and more than 30,000 students expelled from the

university by the military that took over.




forward to the decade of the nineties. The US is now engaged in

subverting the democratic process in another South American country –

Colombia. And what better ally can they have than another soft drink

— Coca Cola. For almost a decade now Coca Cola has been working closely

with the mafia and
criminal gangs in the country to terrorise its workers.

1996, eight workers and union activists from Coca-Cola plants in

Colombia have been murdered by anti-union paramilitary groups. Managers

Coca-Cola bottling plants in Colombia have allowed, and encouraged,

paramilitaries and government security forces to threaten,

kidnap, and murder union activists.


Segundo Gil was killed inside the Coca-Cola bottling plant in Carepa

by right-wing paramilitaries on December 5, 1996. Isidro was the

of the local union, and was involved with negotiations for a new

bargaining agreement with the company. Four days later, the

entered the plant and gave the union members until 4 P.M. to resign from

union. Fifty workers signed identical resignation letters and the local

union was disbanded. Prior to Isidro’s murder, the plant manager

that he had given an order to the paramilitaries to destroy the union.

most recent killing was of Adolfo Munera, who was shot to death in the

doorway of his mother’s house in Barranquilla on August 31, 2002.
Adolfo was

murdered just nine days after the Constitutional Court of Colombia

to review his case against Coca-Cola.




year: 2003. The scene shifts to the corridors of the World Health

Organisation headquarters in Geneva. This time Pepsi and Coca Cola are

working in tandem to prevent the publication of a report by the WHO on

unhealthy nutrition. The release of the draft prompts them to threaten

Harlem Brundtland (then Director General, WHO) in a letter (co authored

the sugar and other food multinationals) with the following words: “We

use all possible methods to throw light on the questionable character of

this report …Tax payers’ money should not be wasted on supporting

non-scientific surveys”.



the heart of the controversy is the WHO’s report on obesity and

nutrition. The report urges governments to clamp down on TV

pushing “sugar-rich items” to impressionable thirsty youngsters and
consider levying heavier taxes on them. It suggests that school vending machines

should be turned into scrap metal. The WHO is concerned about the rising
tide of obesity that is killing and debilitating millions in rich countries

such as the UK and US and that is now edging into poor countries to

obscenely with malnutrition. The soft drinks industry, appalled at this
“interference” with its global dominance, disputes not only the scientific
evidence but the WHO’s right even to raise issues of taxes and advertising. 

and Coke received strong support for their stand from an expected

quarter. The US government registered a formal objection to the WHO draft

report, arguing that it had not proved its case. It said the report found

“insufficient evidence to conclude a causal link between soft drinks
consumption and weight gain exists” and demanded that the offending words be

“deleted or significantly revised”.


above are but a few glimpses from the murky history of the soft drink giants,
Pepsi and Coca Cola. Should we really be surprised when we learn

from a study recently published by the Centre for Science and Environment

(CSE) that they have been serving us soft drinks laced with deadly

pesticides? Let us not
forget that
Coca Cola started as a firm that

Till 1906 it is officially acknowledged that their formula contained
The two, who today symbolize the “free world” and the “American way

life” have for a century carved out an empire by marketing junk that is

bad for health – pesticides
They have even acquired a

sheen. They fund “social causes” and a member of Coca Cola’s

of  directors sits on the board of the Ford Foundation, which appears

to have, in recent years, built a reputation for funding “radical”


drug peddling to philanthropy – it has been a long and eventful





CSE study itself is a damning piece of evidence that suggests corporate

and double standards.
It found that all the

sold by these companies—Pepsi, Mountain Dew, Diet Pepsi, Miranda

orange, Miranda lemon, Blue Pepsi, 7-Up, Coca-Cola, Fanta, Limca, Sprite

Thums Up—contained the deadly insecticide lindane which damages the

body’s central nervous system and has the potential to induce cancers. 


for example, was found to contain lindane in a concentration of

0.0035 milligram per litre—a level which is 35 times higher than the

European Economic Commission (EEC) limit. Similarly, highly toxic DDT

residues, almost 45 times higher than EEC limits, were found in Pepsi’s

Miranda Lemon. Repeated exposure to pesticides such as DDT, malathion and

lindane can cause severe harm, ranging from cancer, liver and kidney

to birth defects and damage to the immune system. The fact that these p

esticides came from the ground water used in the manufacture of Coke and

Pepsi do not in any way absolve them of responsibility.


the reaction of the Indian government to the report by the Centre for

Science and Environment (CSE) on pesticide content in Coke and Pepsi
for its supposed concern for the health of the people. The emphasis

of all the pronouncements have been on testing the soft drinks for

content. In other words, if the companies clean up their act, it will be

business as usual. No one seems to be prepared to question the rationale

allowing these products in the Indian market in the first place—with or

without pesticides.


reaction from the liberalisation brigade and their poster boys has been

nauseating. After the study was published, a very familiar anchor in one
news channel was seen smirking at and hectoring MPs for having dared to ban
Pepsi and Coke from parliament. The same news channel ran a programme

“Villains or Victims”! Pepsi and Coke as victims should qualify as

the news scoop of the millennium! In most metropolitan newspapers the

had vanished from the front page within a couple of days. Big money has

obviously been doing some plain talking! Lest we forget – the Indian soft

industry is worth Rs 6,000 crore, and 85 per cent of the market is controlled by
Pepsi and Coca Cola. They are among the biggest advertisers on Television and in
the print media. We can soon expect to see planted stories appearing on their
behalf in the media.


and Pepsi must go not just because they contain liberal dollops of pesticides.
They must go because of their track record globally and in this country. They
must go because even minus pesticides, they are junk and

harmful for the health of those who consume them.


India, both these companies have bought acres of prime land to set up their
manufacturing facilities. In Maharashtra and many other regions their operations
have starved the local population of water. Thousands have been
against this practice of the Indian government, which has sold the

water rights of the people to corporates like Pepsi and Coke. Recently
the BBC broke a story that is even more damning. It now transpires that as a
philanthropic gesture, Coke in Kerala had been supplying, free of cost, sludge
from their factory to be used as fertiliser to local farmers. The catch in this
tale of corporate munificence is that this sludge is laced with cadmium, a
deadly poison! The Kerala State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) has confirmed
the presence of the carcinogenic metal cadmium in

waste material generated by the Coca-Cola plant at Plachimada in
Kerala’s Palakkad district. The sludge being supplied to farmers was found to
contain 201.8 mg of cadmium per kg of dry weight, against the tolerable limit of

mg. The factory has been asked to stop supplying the sludge as fertiliser

in the locality, and to keep the material in ‘seepage-proof’ conditions.




us now turn to something about Coke and Pepsi that is rarely discussed.
Mercifully they do not contain cocaine any more, and one assumes that they do
not deliberately add pesticides. But what they contain is almost as harmful for
health. The first problem is that soft drinks provide no

nutritional value, but
supply “empty” calories – that is just plain sugar
of coke contains the equivalent of 11 teaspoons of sugar).

This is a
combination when consumed by people with sedentary (not active)

lifestyles. Dr Brundtland, while releasing the WHO report on obesity and
nutrition said: “We have known for a long time that foods high in saturated
fats, sugars, and salt, are unhealthy; that we are, globally, increasing our
intake of energy-dense, nutritionally poor food as our lives become

increasingly sedentary ….. And that these factors – together with
tobacco use – are the leading causes of the great surge we have seen in the
incidence of chronic diseases”. Even in the US, there is today a major public
outcry against the promotion of soft drinks. Los Angles, for example, is
proposing to ban soft drink in all schools from 2004.


active ingredient in Coke is phosphoric acid. It is highly acidic, with a pH
value of 2.8. It is thus highly corrosive and can dissolve a nail
about 4 days.
One can imagine what that would do
to the teeth of children

consume Coke in large quantities. Phosphoric acid also dissolves out

calcium from bones and is a major contributor to the rising increase in
osteoporosis – a disease characterized by thinning of bones that leads to
easy fractures Studies have also implicated phosphoric acid as a causative

of kidney stones.


then is what the votaries of “free market” want protected. Coke and

Pepsi typify the consumerist culture being promoted in the country today. 

must go because they are poisoning a whole generation of children and
adults. They must go because they ravage the land where it is

produced. They must go because they are symbols of all that is evil in

corporate world.