A lot of what passes for news in the mainstream press can leave you bitter and unsatisfied. Take the Reuters article from June 10, “Venezuela bans Coke Zero, cites ‘danger to health,'” reported by Fabian Cambero and Antonio de la Jara, written by Frank Jack Daniel and edited by Christian Wiessner. You'd think at least one of these professional journalists might want to investigate whether Coke Zero actually is a “danger to health.” It's in the damn headline.Of course not. It's got to be about what a crazy commie Hugo Chavez is for meddling with free enterprise.The article cites a report in “the government's news agency” (first lazy fail: it's called The Bolivarian News Agency) announcing Venezuelan health minister Jesus Mantilla's order that Coke Zero be withdrawn from circulation and removed from store shelves “to preserve the health of Venezuelans.”
“Mantilla did not say what health risks Coke Zero, which contains artificial sweeteners, posed to the population,” the article states.
That single phrase, “which contains artificial sweeteners” is the only hint we get from the authors that Mantilla's concerns might come from anywhere other than straight out of Chavez's butt.
The CBS/AP article “Venezuela Bans Coke Zero” suffers from a similar lack of investigative curiosity: It kicks off with an obvious coke / cocaine yuk-fest, then, like Reuters, quotes Mantilla's comments in the BNA report but adds another, slightly more specific vaguery: “Coke Zero, [Mantilla] claimed, ‘contains a harmful ingredient.'” The article's unnamed author then skips right past taking an interest in this unfathomably mysterious, and yet entirely Googlable “harm” quandary to dutifully report Coca Cola's official response to the claim:
Coke Zero “doesn't have any components that are harmful” and “is made under the highest quality standards around the world and meets the sanitary requirements demanded by the laws of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela,” reports the company that makes and sells the utterly benign lab-created liquid.
Ultimately, of course, the removal of Coke Zero from the shelves of Caracas mini-marts is viewed from an entirely political, rather than health-focused, angle by the two leading wire services.
Both articles report how the Venezuelan government earlier this year seized a rice mill and pasta factory belonging to U.S. food giant Cargill and threatened action against pharmaceutical company Pfizer. Reuters also mentions that Chavez has nationalized several oil service companies. This “wave of nationalizations and increased scrutiny of businesses in South America's top oil exporter” is completely decontextualized from anything other than the laundry list of seemingly inexplicable government decisions.
Since neither article explains why any of these actions were taken or how they transpired, these allegedly impartial journalists create the impression that Chavez and his ministers are impulsive anti-capitalists for anti-capitalism's sake. There couldn't possibly be any legitimate motivation for challenging corporate interests, let alone justification.Yet any Composition 101 student would have the presence of mind in researching the Coke Zero story not to stop at
“The health minister didn't even say what the harmful ingredient is.” Could one of these unnatural sweeteners be the mystery ingredient at the heart of the controversy?
Figure out for yourselves if you're poisoning your kids, say the media, and did you hear the latest wacky outrage committed by that commie devil, Chavez?
For the record, Coke Zero contains carbonated water, caramel coloring, acesulfame K (potassium), aspartame, caffeine, phosphoric acid, potassium benzoate, sodium citrate or sodium benzoate and “flavoring.”
Did you guess which ingredient is the sweetener? Trick question! Both aspartame and acesulfame K are artificial chemical sweeteners, about 200 times sweeter than sugar. The other ingredients in there are just totally fantastic: chemical preservatives, chemical stimulants and chemical coloring and flavoring, just like Mom used to make. Nothing to worry about there.
Back to the sweeteners. Acesulfame potassium, a derivative of acetoacetic acid, was discovered accidentally in 1967 by German chemist Karl Clauss at Hoechst AG, the company that made its mark during World War II manufacturing the chemical poisons that were used to murder members of my family at Auschwitz. But I digress.
According to the industry shills at the International Food Information Council, acesulfame K is really, really safe and good for you, we swear, nooooo problem. According to some renegade scientists, like Myra L. Karstadt of the Drexel University School of Public Health in Philadelphia, more testing is needed on the sweetener amid concerns that it might be carcinogenic. Likewise, the Center for Science in the Public Interest has stated that the FDA was petitioned in 1988 not to approve acesulfame potassium because of studies linking its use to lung and breast tumors. What a bunch of communist hooey!
Like acesulfame K, aspartame was also discovered accidentally in a lab and has a sweet list of health concerns. A concise rundown of all the reasons the crazy alarmists want to take all the fun out of consuming artificial chemical sweeteners can be found at registered holistic nutritionist (hippie alert!) Joan Ullyet's article “Sweet Lowdown” at www.evolvewellness.com.
Hey, maybe there's nothing to all these health concerns. And maybe Chavez is just a grumpy bully who wants to force his people to drink government organic cactus juice. But since when does leaving out all the delicious details pass for reporting?Write to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.