By Julie Etra

Although this is a truly American concoction created in 1886 by John Pemberton, and was the first soft drink in space (1985) it may surprise some readers that Mexico has surpassed the United States in consumption since 2010. It now has the dubious distinction of the highest per capita consumption in the world with Mexicans consuming a yearly average of 675 8-oz servings per person. That’s 168.75 gallons per year for every man, woman, and child.

Soft drinks are hugely popular in Mexico, which has about 250 bottling plants and 15.5 billion dollars in sales. However this increased consumption of soft drinks along with processed food has also led to a huge increase in the rates of obesity, especially childhood obesity, and of diabetes. ‘Mexico has the highest rate of diabetes in the world, more than 11%. The total number of patients diagnosed with diabetes has risen seven fold since 1990. Diabetes is now the leading cause of death and costs the country more than $300 million annually, one-third of the public health care budget’.

That said U.S. Coca-Cola and Mexican Coca-Cola are not equals. Mexican CocaCola uses cane sugar for sweetening while high fructose or corn syrup is used in the U.S. due to the U.S. government subsidies of corn production. The U.S. switched to fructose nearly 30 years ago. Even Andy Warhol was wrong when he famously said: “A Coke is a Coke and no amount of money can get you a better Coke than the one the bum on the corner is drinking. All the Cokes are the same and all the Cokes are good. Liz Taylor knows it, the president knows it, the bum knows it and you know it.” There is an actual market in the U.S. for Mexican coke mostly from Mexican living there, and a Mexican Coke Facebook page with more than 10,000 fans. The Huffington Post actually conducted its own test with a team of 20 editors. Eighty-fivepercent of the tasters could tell the difference between regular Coke and Mexican Coke and 80 percent preferred Mexican Coke to regular Coke.

In 2009 Michael Blanding, author of The Coke Machine: The Dirty Truth Behind the World’s Favorite Soft Drink, discovered that Mexican Coke had lowered their mix to 70 percent local sugar versus 30 percent high-fructose corn syrup. The current drought in the U.S. has had a huge impact on corn production (fortunately ethanol production has slowed as well). We wonder if the price of U.S. Coca-Cola will rise due to reduction in fructose production. But if you want sugar in your coke look for the “No Retornable” “Refresco”, and “ Hecho en Mexico” phrases on 12-ounce bottles. You can even buy it on line from Amazon. And Mexican coke at Costco USA as well as American coke at some Mexican Costco stores. No kidding.

The Global Dump Soda Campaign aims to reduce consumption of high-calorie carbonated colas and other unhealthy beverages in primary and secondary schools as part of an international effort to improve children’s health and diet. www.dumpsoda.org

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