Monday, October 18, 2004

Programmed to Consume

This is a chilling finding that demonstrates what slaves to the corporations many people have become:

The mind-altering power of advertising has been demonstrated in a remarkable study of the way in which brand recognition affects the workings of the human brain.

A well-known label is so influential, say researchers, that it can alter consumers' perception of the product's taste. They believe the findings are particularly important given the role that sugared soft drinks have on the epidemic of childhood obesity and type 2 diabetes.

The experiment, a laboratory-controlled version of the famous Pepsi Challenge, revealed that flavour seems to be the last thing that consumers rely on in their preference for Pepsi or Coca-Cola.

When asked to taste blind, they showed no preference. However, when the participants were shown company logos before they drank, the Coke label, the more famous of the two, had a dramatic impact: three-quarters of the tasters declared they preferred Coke.

Here are some reasons why Coca-Cola does not deserve to have any positive associations. Think about these facts next time you drink one:

A lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Florida accuses the Coca-Cola Company, its Colombian subsidiary and business affiliates of using paramilitary death squads to murder, torture, kidnap and threaten union leaders at the multinational soft drink manufacturer's Colombian bottling plants. The suit was filed on July 20 by the United Steelworkers of America and the International Labor Rights Fund on behalf of SINALTRAINAL, the Colombian union that represents workers at Coca-Cola's Colombian bottling plants; the estate of a murdered union leader; and five other unionists who worked for Coca-Cola and were threatened, kidnapped or tortured by paramilitaries.

Coca-Cola's workers have the teamsters fighting their corner:

Hundreds of Teamsters rallied outside Madison Square Garden, the site of the Coke’s annual meeting, to protest the company’s poor treatment of its workers. Coca-Cola union leaders from Guatemala, the Philippines, Zimbabwe and the U.S. told members of the Coca-Cola Board of Directors of the harassment and abuse of trade union members at Coca-Cola production, bottling and distribution centers.

  • In Zambia, Coca-Cola's aggressive advertising campaign, has convinced mothers to substitute soft drinks instead of breast milk. 'Fanta baby syndrome' is now a common form of infant malnutrition.
  • In May 2002, several employees of Coca-Cola in Texas accused the company of repackaging nearly out-of-date soda cans and bottles and reselling them in stores frequented by people of colour - primarily Latino and African-American people.
  • In 2000, Coca-Cola paid out $192.5m (£120m) to African-American employees who accused the company of racial discrimination.
  • Coca-Cola has illegally occupied a portion of the common property of the village of Mehdiganj and was found guilty of evading payment of land revenue by a local court. Protesters were met at Coca-Cola's factory gates by about 200 police personnel, sent to 'protect' the plant along with 50 gun-toting private security guards. This was not for show - the demonstrators were beaten up. The Coca-Cola plant in Mehdiganj enjoys heavily subsidized electricity and is accused of spewing toxics into surrounding agricultural fields as well as causing serious water shortage as a result of its operations.
  • Federal prosecutors in Brazil asked police in March to investigate allegations that the company is intimidating local suppliers and bribing public officials in an attempt to put a local competitor out of business.
  • In Asia, government officials in India forced the company to close a bottling plant in March after determining the plant was extracting so much groundwater that it was depriving farmers of enough water to irrigate their crops.

If the welfare of others doesn't move you you can think of youself - they don't have any regard for your health and safety either:

  • Coke was forced to recall 500,000 bottles of its flagship bottled water product in March -- just two months after introducing it in England -- when laboratory analysis found levels of bromate, a potential carcinogen, in the drink that exceeded British health standards. The recall followed weeks of criticism by the British press after reporters discovered that Dasani was purified tap water.
  • For the past year, the company has been battling allegations that its drinks contain pesticides and the plant produces a byproduct of toxic sludge.
  • Coca-Cola, in another goodwill gesture, was giving away the toxic sludge from its plant in Kerala to farmers for free -- as fertilizer! Tests on samples of the toxic sludge commissioned by BBC, not surprisingly, found high levels of lead and cadmium.
  • Tests in India found high concentrations of pesticides and insecticides, including lindane, DDT, malathion and chlorpyrifos, in the colas, making them unfit for consumption. Some samples tested showed the presence of these toxins to be more than 30 times the standard allowed by the European Union. Tests of samples taken from the US of the same drinks were found to be safe.

  • The director-general of Coca-Cola Enterprises Belgium, Philippe Lenfant, told a news conference that a bottling plant in Antwerp had used the "wrong" carbon dioxide to put the fizz in soft drinks bottles.
  • Cans produced in France for the Belgian market, meanwhile, were contaminated with a fungicide used to treat "a small number" of transportation pallets. ..According to the Belgian authorities, the drinks had triggered a blood disorder that causes the destruction of red blood cells among people who had drunk Coca-Cola.
  • In 1996, Coca Cola brought in Cutrale Citrus Juices USA, a subsidiary of Brazil-based Sucocitrico Cutrale Ltd., to produce Minute Maid and Hi-C juice products in Florida. Since the operational changeover, workers in Auburndale have reported to Coca Cola that rats are prevalent throughout the plant, pigeon feathers and droppings have been found on conveyor belts, roaches swarm juice feed tanks, and mold grows inside production lines that are not shut down regularly for cleaning, the Teamsters say. Conditions were so bad by January 2000 that workers initiated their own quality control reporting system and ultimately went on strike to protest unsafe conditions. After ignoring workers' warnings and a failed Florida Department of Agriculture Food Safety Inspection, Coca Cola was forced to recall Hi-C products produced at the Auburndale plant in February 2000.

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