Watch What You’re Drinking

From colas to saccharin, products have been modified for consumers

Samar Srivastava
Published: Apr 11, 2012 06:04:51 AM IST
Updated: Apr 11, 2012 01:55:42 PM IST

After studying law I vectored towards journalism by accident and it's the only job I've done since. It's a job that has taken me on a private jet to Jaisalmer - where I wrote India's first feature on fractional ownership of business jets - to the badlands of west UP where India's sugar economy is inextricably now tied to politics. I'm a big fan of new business models and crafty entrepreneurs. Fortunately for me, there are plenty of those in Asia at the moment.

Watch What You’re Drinking
Image: Getty Images

In March 2012, the State of California, USA, asked cola companies to either modify the caramel colouring contained in the drink or label the cancer risk that the product carries. Over the years several products have been modified to make them acceptable to us consumers

In its early days, Coke’s two key ingredients were caffeine and cocaine. The cocaine was derived from the kola nut and was discontinued in the early part of this century. (The company refuses to comment on the presence of cocaine.)

Pepsi Cola
The drink derives its name after pepsin and kola nuts. Pepsin is an enzyme made from digestive juices in a pig’s stomach. As a result, Muslim groups have issued calls to boycott the drink. (The company has denied that the drink contains any animal fat.)

Stock pot
As they had never heard of vegetarianism, the earlier crop of cooks in Chinese restaurants would use animal stock to flavour rice. Horrified vegetarian Indians caused this to be replaced with vegetable stock.

Cartridges greased with animal fat

Listed as one of the causes for the 1857 Sepoy mutiny. Muslim and Hindu soldiers rioted as they believed bullet cartridges were greased with pig and cow fat.


In 1977, the Food and Drug Authority recommended a ban on the basis of it being a carcinogen. The food industry got away with a warning label. In 1997, the industry petitioned the World Health Organization to remove it from the list of cancer causing chemicals.

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(This story appears in the 13 April, 2012 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)

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  • Kamal

    what about other drinks except pepsi and cola ??

    on Apr 16, 2012
  • Bhuvan

    That's horrifying to hear it! Ok. These are the history, but how about the current content of colas?

    on Apr 11, 2012
    • Samar Srivastava

      Kamal/Bhuvan, I think you can be rest assured that he current content of colas is safe. While the India authorities may well be lax in their standards I find it hard to believe that the FDA would let something like this slip through. Also, it is very unlikely that the companies would risk the public relations disaster that would surely follow if the presence of these substances was conclusively proven.

      on Apr 16, 2012