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Posted: 1/3/2006 1:46:22 PM EDT
go.reuters.co.uk/newsArticle.jhtml;jsessionid=JQVAZZ5DG0OWECRBAEZSFEY?type=oddlyEnoughNews&storyID=10738873

Colombia Indians aim to take on Coke with coca drink
Tue Jan 3, 2006 03:20 PM GMT

By Jason Webb

INZA, Colombia (Reuters) - Colombian Indians are using the raw material of cocaine to make a soft drink they hope will displace in their area another, better known beverage with the same ingredient: Coca-Cola.

Coca Sek -- a fizzy, sweet yellow drink with a fruity, slightly herbal taste -- is being made using coca leaf by Nasa Indians living in the village of Calderas high in the green mountains of Cauca Province in southern Colombia.

While it will only become commercially available for the first time in the next few months in the southern Colombian city of Popayan, there has been plenty of initial buyer interest and the cooperative which makes the drink hopes eventually to export it.

The Indians, who have invested $13,000 (7500 pounds) and aim to start producing a modest 20,000 bottles per month, hope that by selling a soft drink based on coca they will revive a key part of their culture by bringing it into the modern economy.

Coca has long been sacred to the Nasa, who chewed the bitter leaf for its properties as a mild stimulant and appetite suppressant and used it in their rituals. But coca is also used to make cocaine, and its traditional consumption, even though legal for Colombia's Indians, is declining under the impact of the government's U.S.-funded war on the narcotics industry.

"I always say a town without coca is a town which has died," Nasa woman Fabiola Pinacue told Reuters in the remote town of Inza. She helped launch Coca Sek in December at a stall in the town's market as Indians nearby bartered produce including coca leaf for vegetables and live ducks.

"Coca leaf has been under attack, from the state, from the Church, from education," she said, speaking with her 5-month-old daughter strapped to her back in traditional fashion.

HOPING TO TAKE SALES FROM COKE

In addition to preserving their customs, the Indians also hope Coca Sek will, at least within their own territories, take some sales from Coca-Cola, a product for which they have a special animosity.

This is partly because of accusations by a union, which Coca-Cola denies, of human rights abuses at bottling plants in Colombia.

But Coca-Cola is also a worldwide symbol of the United States, which the Indians blame for the government's drive against coca. And, to top it off, this emblem of anti-coca America actually uses the leaf but won't admit to it.

"The people behind Coca-Cola are hypocrites," Pinacue said. "Coca-Cola doesn't dare speak about coca."

"But we are saying straight out to the country and the world that we're not ashamed and we're not doing anything harmful. We are the people who know about coca."

Coca-Cola is extremely coy on the subject of coca, even though the leaf gave the drink the first part of its name and its qualities as a stimulant were included in early promotion in the late 19th century, when it was marketed as an "Intellectual Beverage and Temperance drink."

COCAINE FOR HAY FEVER

At the time, cocaine was available over the counter in the United States and was recommended as a cure for many ills ranging from fatigue to hay fever.

But Coca-Cola began to clam up over its use of coca leaves when a scare about the negative side effects of cocaine swept America in the early 20th century, leading to the drug being progressively restricted.

These days, the company clearly worries that it could be damaged by publicity about coca and that consumers might confuse the leaf with refined cocaine.

When asked about coca leaves, a spokeswoman at Coca-Cola headquarters in Atlanta said the drink's ingredients are secret, although she was careful to add that it does not contain cocaine.

However, it is pretty easy to follow the trail of legal coca exports from South America to the United States. And Coca-Cola itself has occasionally owned up to using coca -- as it did in an interview with the New York Times back in 1988.

Pressed by Reuters about the evidence regarding the company's use of coca leaf, the spokeswoman, Kirsten Witt, suffered from a slip of the tongue.

"It's just part of I guess you would say our marketing, in that it's the secret ingredient," she said.

Of course anyone hoping to get a cocaine hit from Coca-Cola will be disappointed -- the only "buzz" the drink gives comes from sugar and caffeine. For 100 years, the company has used a flavour extract derived from the leaf in a process that removes traces of stimulant.

In contrast to Coke's reticence, the Nasa proudly admit that they do nothing to eliminate the active component of coca from Coca Sek, although it is present in such tiny amounts that it is impossible to notice any effect.

And, far from coca cultivation encouraging production of narcotics, the Nasa hope that by providing a legal outlet for coca leaf and purchasing it to make the drink as well as other products including coca tea, wine and biscuits, they will push drug traffickers from their territories.

The cooperative making the drink pays growers about the same as traffickers -- about $3 for 2.2 pounds (1 kg) of leaf -- but is much more reliable and does not bring violence or unwelcome police attention, Pinacue said.

The idea to make Coca Sek comes as Colombia's Indian minority, particularly in Cauca, is becoming more assertive. The Nasa have even tried to ban the different factions in the country's decades-old guerrilla war from entering their territories.

But, while the Indians would like to eventually export Coca Sek, it is early days yet and the launch of the drink in Inza was almost ruined when a car bringing the first few cases of the drink from a bottling plant in the city of Pasto broke down on a cold stretch of high altitude dirt road.
Link Posted: 1/3/2006 1:50:04 PM EDT
It'll never be sold in the US. Coca-Cola is the only beverage allowed in the US to use coca as an ingredient.
Link Posted: 1/3/2006 2:03:07 PM EDT


all Coca Cola did was swap caffeine for the cocaine.
Link Posted: 1/3/2006 2:04:28 PM EDT
Id be happy with Coke with sugar in it
Link Posted: 1/3/2006 2:10:46 PM EDT

Originally Posted By Taxman:
Id be happy with Coke with sugar in it



+1

It'd be interesting to try Coca Sek, but it doesn't seem to be a cola of any sort - I don't see how it'd replace Coke.
Link Posted: 1/3/2006 2:13:24 PM EDT
I can see the headlines now:

'Man Dies From Snorting New Coca-Sek Beverage'

Then the lawsuits will begin and some person will end up owning a Columbian bottling plant.
Link Posted: 1/3/2006 5:16:45 PM EDT

Originally Posted By Sniper_Wolfe:

Originally Posted By Taxman:
Id be happy with Coke with sugar in it



+1

It'd be interesting to try Coca Sek, but it doesn't seem to be a cola of any sort - I don't see how it'd replace Coke.



I do an occasional call the the Coke comment number and request that they sell it, about once every 3 months
Link Posted: 1/3/2006 5:37:44 PM EDT

Originally Posted By Swindle1984:
It'll never be sold in the US. Coca-Cola is the only beverage allowed in the US to use coca as an ingredient.



You are kidding right? Coke was taken out of CC almost 100 years ago.
Link Posted: 1/3/2006 5:50:41 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 1/3/2006 5:52:57 PM EDT by 95thFoot]

Originally Posted By Swindle1984:
It'll never be sold in the US. Coca-Cola is the only beverage allowed in the US to use coca as an ingredient.



Urban Legend.




http://www.snopes.com/cokelore/cocaine.asp

Claim: Coca-Cola used to contain cocaine.

Status: True.

Origins: Coca-Cola

was named back in 1885 for its two "medicinal" ingredients: extract of coca leaves and kola nuts. Just how much cocaine was originally in the formulation is hard to determine, but the drink undeniably contained some cocaine in its early days. Frederick Allen describes the public attitude towards cocaine that existed as Coca-Cola's developers worked on perfecting their formula in 1891:

The first stirrings of a national debate had begun over the negative aspects of cocaine, and manufacturers were growing defensive over charges that use of their products might lead to "cocainism" or the "cocaine habit". The full-throated fury against cocaine was still a few years off, and Candler and Robinson were anxious to continue promoting the supposed benefits of the coca leaf, but there was no reason to risk putting more than a tiny bit of coca extract in their syrup. They cut the amount to a mere trace.

Allen also explains that cocaine continued to be an ingredient in the syrup in order to protect the trade name "Coca-Cola":

But neither could Candler take the simple step of eliminating the fluid extract of coca leaves from the formula. Candler believed that his product's name had to be descriptive, and that he must have at least some by-product of the coca leaf in the syrup (along with some kola) to protect his right to the name Coca-Cola. Protecting the name was critical. Candler had no patent on the syrup itself. Anyone could make an imitation. But no one could put the label "Coca-Cola" on an imitation so long as Candler owned the name. The name was the thing of real value, and the registered trademark was its only safeguard. Coca leaves had to stay in the syrup.

How much cocaine was in that "mere trace" is impossible to say, but we do know that by 1902 it was as little as 1/400 of a grain of cocaine per ounce of syrup. Coca-Cola didn't become completely cocaine-free until 1929, but there was scarcely any of the drug left in the drink by then:

By Heath's calculation, the amount of ecgonine [an alkaloid in the coca leaf that could be synthesized to create cocaine] was infinitesimal: no more than one part in 50 million. In an entire year's supply of 25-odd million gallons of Coca-Cola syrup, Heath figured, there might be six-hundredths of an ounce of cocaine.

So, yes, at one time there was cocaine in Coca-Cola. But before you're tempted to run off claiming Coca-Cola turned generations of drinkers into dope addicts, consider the following: back in 1885 it was far from uncommon to use cocaine in patent medicines (which is what Coca-Cola was originally marketed as) and other medical potions. When it first became general knowledge that cocaine could be harmful, the backroom chemists who comprised Coca-Cola at the time (long before it became the huge company we now know) did everything they could with the technology they had available at the time to remove every trace of cocaine from the beverage. What was left behind (until the technology improved enough for it all to be removed) wasn't enough to give a fly a buzz.

Barbara "hooked on a feeling" Mikkelson

Link Posted: 1/3/2006 5:57:17 PM EDT

Originally Posted By Taxman:
Id be happy with Coke with sugar in it



Coca Cola with sugar is available in New York and other cities with large Jewish populations on Passover.

Look for Hebrew letters or KP [kosher passover] on the bottle around the begining of March.

Link Posted: 1/3/2006 6:43:40 PM EDT

Originally Posted By 0ldGuy:

Originally Posted By Taxman:
Id be happy with Coke with sugar in it



Coca Cola with sugar is available in New York and other cities with large Jewish populations on Passover.

Look for Hebrew letters or KP [kosher passover] on the bottle around the begining of March.




that or Mexican coke.
Link Posted: 1/3/2006 7:04:12 PM EDT
The cap will also be yellow
Link Posted: 1/3/2006 7:56:30 PM EDT

Originally Posted By ATLGA:
The cap will also be yellow



now that I didnt know. thanks for the info.
Link Posted: 1/4/2006 9:31:21 AM EDT

Originally Posted By ATLGA:

Originally Posted By Swindle1984:
It'll never be sold in the US. Coca-Cola is the only beverage allowed in the US to use coca as an ingredient.



You are kidding right? Coke was taken out of CC almost 100 years ago.



Yeah, I know that. They're still the only company allowed to produce and/or sell soda in the US with coca leaf extract.
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