The Food & Drinks Industry in the McSpotlight
Soft drinks have been described as making the "most extensive dietary impact of foreign corporations in the developed
world". They are usualy priced just within the reach of the poorest in these countries and may represent, via their glossily
advertised images, symbols of an enviable Western lifestyle.
Because of the relative poverty of many people in the Third World, staple foods may be neglected in preference to soft drinks. In 1969 it was reported that babies in Zambia had become malnourished because their mothers fed them Coke and Fanta, believing it was the best thing they could give their children. Around the time 54% of the seriously malnourished children admitted to the children's hospital at Ndola had 'Fantababy' written on their progress charts. The Zambian government subsequently banned Fanta advertisements "because of their influence on the poor".
A study at the Nutrition Institute in Rio de Janeiro found high levels of consumption of Coke, Fanta and Pepsi in its survey of school children between 6-14 years old. All the children showed signs of vitamin deficiency whilst the poorest of them also showed protein/calorie malnutrition.
A Mexican priest wrote, in 1974, that Mexican villagers believed soft drinks should be consumed every day, leading to lower consumption of natural products such as fruit. Some families were even seen to be selling their natural products in order to buy soft drinks.
The spread of Coca-Cola and PepsiCo operations is truly global. Coca-Cola distributes its branded products in over 155 countries. In Mexico, Coca-Cola and PepsiCo control 77% of the soft drinks market, while in Brazil, Coca-Cola alone has 55% of the market.
Cola drinks usually contain about 10% sugars - some 13 lumps in a 330ml can. Ribena contains approximately 15% sugars - 15 lumps in a 250ml carton. These proportions seem the norm for most soft drinks (except of course the 'diet' varieties).
The Saccharin often found in the 'diet' varieties has to carry a health warning in the U.S. as it has been linked to the development of bladder cancer. The Food Commission undertook a survey in 1991 of soft drink brands and food a number of them, not just those labelled 'diet' drinks, contained saccharin as well as sugar. They found this a worrying trend given that MAFF research in 1990 found 1 in 6 children between the ages of two and five were consuming more than 2.5mg of saccharin per kg of body weight, which was then the UK maximum acceptable daily intake (and is still that of EC and WHO recommendations).