Sunday, December 4, 2011


Fizz drinks have been in the news lately because of their supposed negative impact on the health of consumers, especially youngsters. Though conclusive evidence is still lacking regarding the claim made by antagonists of soft drinks that High Fructose Corn Syrup used as the sweetener in these drinks is the villain, some of the manufacturers have already switched to plane sugar from cane or beets to avoid unnecessary confrontation with the food activists. Recent controversy in which the soft drink industry is embroiled pertains to promotion of their calorie rich drinks through Internet where there is a large audience including kids and "repacking" their products as fruit drinks. Though some of the soft drink manufacturers deny that they are targeting the youngsters, how any one posting the advertisement on the "Net" can control the audience is beyond comprehension. Similarly so called fruit drinks contain hardly 10% pulp remaining 90% being sugar syrup with their calorie content same as that in the ubiquitous fizz drink! 

"Brownell said it is important to consider the online interaction children have with brands, especially since they tend to stay on computers longer than they watch TV commercials. The report shows, for example, that 21 sugary drink brands had YouTube channels in 2010, with more than 229 million views by June 2011. Coca-Cola was the most popular brand on Facebook, with more than 30 million fans. The most-visited websites operated by soft drink brands were and Capri Sun, which is owned by Kraft Foods Inc. Coca-Cola said it has a policy of not marketing to children younger than 12. "This means that we do not buy advertising directly targeted at audiences that are made up of more than 35 percent children under 12," Coca-Cola said in a statement. "This policy applies to all of our beverage brands and to a wide range of media outlets, including television, radio and print, as well as cinema, the Internet, product placement and mobile phones." Other findings in the report include an analysis of the drinks themselves. For example, it said an 8-ounce (225-gram) serving of a full-calorie fruit drink has 110 calories and seven teaspoons of sugar -- the same amount found in an 8-ounce serving of a soda or energy drink".

The subtle shift from 100% synthetic soft beverages to fruit drinks is fraught with enormous implications that must be addressed immediately. Nowadays it is common to see in the isles of supermarkets fruit juices and fruit drinks sitting side by side with the latter priced 10-20% cheaper and both looking similar in all respects including pack design except for minute details which are overlooked or missed by the customers. Besides many consumers are ignorant of the difference between a juice and a drink and the tendency is to imagine they are same. While legally such misleading practices cannot be faulted, ethically it amounts to cheating the consumer. A 100% juice is much more nutritious and healthy than a fruit drink and probably the current practice of placing them together must be frowned upon. Food Authorities can, alternatively, prescribe a minimum content of at least 50% pulp in fruit drinks keeping in view the interest and well being of millions of citizens world over.


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