Venezuela Bans Coke Zero Citing Health Concerns

NATURAL NEWS
The Venezuelan government has banned the sugar-free soft drink Coke Zero, citing concerns that its artificial sweetener is harmful to human health.

"The product should be withdrawn from circulation to preserve the health of Venezuelans," Health Minister Jesus Mantilla said.

The ruling called for the product to be removed from all store shelves and destroyed, and for all further production to cease pending an investigation into the drink's safety. Coke said that it would comply with the government order.

Coke Zero is a zero-calorie soft drink marketed at young men who are reluctant to drink beverages labeled "diet" because they associate the word with women. It is also billed as tasting more similar to Coca-Cola Classic than Diet Coke does.

In a number of Latin American countries, the product is sweetened with sodium cyclamate, which has been banned in the United States as a carcinogen since 1969. Although the Mexican government had authorized the ingredient as an additive in 2006, consumer pressure forced the Coca-Cola Company to removed it from Coke Zero in 2008.

In the United States, Coke Zero is sweetened with aspartame, which has been linked to neurological damage.

Mantilla said that Coke had failed to mention sodium cyclamate in its application to market the product in Venezuela, but that government tests turned up the sweetener in concentrations of 18 to 22 milligrams per 10 milliliters. This exceeded the threshold set by the Venezuelan Commission of Industrial Norms for safe human consumption.

According to Health Ministry official Divis Antunez, the maximum recommended intake of sodium cyclamate is only 11 milligrams per kilogram of weight.

The action against Coke Zero is only the latest by a government determined to increase regulation of industry. Venezuela has already nationalized several oil companies and has seized factories owned by agribusiness and pharmaceutical giants Cargill and Pfizer. It also recently expropriated a Coke parking lot to build housing for the poor.

Sources for this story include: www.reuters.com; www.guardian.co.uk.