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Coca-Cola's Scandalous Past

Coca-Cola's Scandalous Past

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Sara Bellum
March 01, 2012

Did you hear the one about cocaine being found in the recipe for Coca-Cola?

Well, it’s true.

Coca-Cola was invented in 1885 by John Pemberton, a pharmacist from Atlanta, Georgia, who concocted the original formula in his backyard. Pemberton’s recipe contained cocaine—in the form of an extract of the coca leaf, which inspired the “Coca” part of the beverage’s name. The “Cola” in the name comes from the kola nut, which contains caffeine, another stimulant.

At the time of Coca-Cola’s invention, cocaine was legal and a common ingredient in medicines. It was thought not to be harmful in small doses.

Medicinal Coca-Cola

Coca-Cola has always kept its formula a strict secret, but we know a few things about its origins. Pemberton advertised it as a patent medicine, claiming that it cured headaches, upset stomach, and fatigue.

“Patent medicines” were concoctions of exotic ingredients and drug compounds that allegedly cured a wide range of ailments. They often contained ingredients now recognized as addictive substances, including opium and cocaine, as well as deadly elements like mercury and lead.

In the 19th century, patent medicines were not regulated like medications are today. Anyone could claim health benefits without needing to prove treatment effectiveness—or reveal dangers. As early as 1891, some Americans spoke out against the inclusion of addictive ingredients like opium and cocaine. The makers of patent medicines revamped their formulas and health claims as a result.

Taking the “Coke” out of Coca-Cola

Asa Candler—also a pharmacist from Atlanta—purchased Coca-Cola from Pemberton and created the Coca-Cola Company in 1892. When Candler began advertising Coke as a beverage, making it available at lunch counters across America, the drink still contained a trace of cocaine.

Obviously, the Coca-Cola you buy today does not contain cocaine—but it remained an ingredient well into the 1900s.

But by 1929, with public pressure and Prohibition against alcohol in full force, the company was forced to remove all traces of cocaine. Coke soon became popular as a “soft drink,” an alternative to hard alcohol.

Are there any food or drink products sold today that you think might be changed or taken off the market years from now?

Comments

thats a cool thing to know!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thank you so much in putting together this post, so much appreciated because it has helped me in my research.

I love coco-cola

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SO?

i never knew that

that is amazing

never knew it but that is good to know now

i need some coca-cola now

thats pretty cool, my pap use to work there he was there 35 years and retired i bet he dosent know that

This article is very interesting. I understand the part about using the Coca-Cola with cocaine as a medicine because pharmacists used to use cocaine as an ingredient in medicines but i cant believe that the other pharmacist, Asa Candler sold it as a drink even though there were traces of cocaine in it. I wonder how people acted after they consumed it. Its a good thing they dont have cocaine in Coca-Cola anymore!

I thoguht this was a really good blog, and i found out alot about the origin of Coca Cola, one of my favortie sodas in the world. I would have never known that there was a drug in a drink sold to kids! And one of the biggest soda compaintes started in someones back yard.

I say this really is good to know that coca cola had cocaine in it and that is no longer the case. If the cocaine was still in coca cola, I would not drink it. It is not healthy to sip even a small trace of cocaine. Without the public pressure we might still have cocaine in coca cola and kids would not be drinking it.

yes you are right i do not drink also
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Awsome!!!!!!

i think it was a good idea that coca-cola decided to take cocaine out of there drink. I love coca cola and if this drink had cocaine I wouldn't like it. also it was probably a lot better buisness wise to take cocaine out because now they have a lot more people to advertise to. This was a very helpful blog.

Well actually, it doesn't really change anything about it... You wouldn't be able to tell if there was cocaine in it or not. So no. You would still like it. Just saying.

There was and still cocaine in coca-cola. Ask the government to confirm if they ever tested to make sure it was taken out. I did. They said there are no records of any test. Wake up people-you being fool.

I guess I need to stop sniffing coca cola cause I thought it still had cocaine in it. Thanks for the help cause im sure sniffing that stuff is super bad. DONT DO IT ANYONE
iv never drank coca cola and now i wont!!!! thanks for this great article!! maybe because the cocaine is in coca cola, that's why people like it so much and some people i know are even addicted to coca cola. Now that's just sad :(

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