In Who’s Coke Is It, Anyway? [sic], Grant McCracken muses on the cultural meanings of an accidental rebellion against the distribution channels of The Coca-Cola Company. Rather than buy Coke made here in the good ol’ US of A, many US citizens are now buying south of the border Coca-Cola, hecho en Mexico. He considers the image and cultural potency of Coke in the days of Americana yore, and posits a similar connection between this new trend in Coke purchasing and Mexican culture.
Tyler Cowen very briefly notes that hecho en Mexico Coca-Cola uses cane sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup. It’s a throw-away statement about something that has become near and dear to me: I’ve actually sworn off beverages with high fructose corn syrup (with about 98% success), despite the fact that about 98% of sweetened beverages in the US contain high fructose corn syrup. Hell, Special K contains high fructose corn syrup, if you’ll believe that weirdness.
(edit: Oh, yeah, and Coke with natural cane sugar tastes better than with high fructose corn syrup.)
Of course, there’s a simple reason for all this high fructose corn syrup in all your food — and it’s the same reason that Bush is pushing corn-based ethanol, among other surprising places corn keeps cropping up. Corn is one of the most heavily subsidized crops in the world, thanks to the US Government’s gigantic funnel into which it pours ungodly amounts of money every year with the corn producers at the receiving end.
There’s actually study evidence suggesting that high fructose corn syrup, a highly processed fructose-enhanced syrup, is a significant part of the problem with obesity in the US. There’s also data suggesting that it contributes to a number of other ailments (“other”, that is, if you can count obesity as an ailment). Have you ever wondered why swearing off soft drinks can cause you to lose several pounds? High fructose corn syrup might be the reason. In fact, it’s suggested that high fructose corn syrup may suppress the body’s ability to recognize when it has had enough to eat, thus encouraging overeating.
It’s entirely possible that some of the people buying hecho en Mexico Coke do so for the cane sugar that is used in its formula instead of high fructose corn syrup. It’s also possible they just like the bottles — I’ve always disliked the flavor of aluminum, and with the discovery of aluminum oxide deposits in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s I’m doubly uncomfortable with drinks in aluminum cans.
Back to high fructose corn syrup, though . . .
I think Grant McCracken may be missing something important with all his anthropological analyses of the Coca-Cola cultural phenomenon. What about those subsidies? It’s entirely possible that The Coca-Cola Company is objecting to the purchase inside US borders of “bootlegged” Coke from south of the border simply because, within the US, Coke is supposed to contain high fructose corn syrup — for reasons related more to politics than anything else.