Over Joe Camel?
By John F. Borowski
Coca-Cola doesn't have Joe Camel. Instead they have a cool
cow figure with shades adorning their new "Swerve"
drink and it will only be sold in schools. It seems purveyors
of liquid candy will use any gimmick to invade our public
schools. "Swerve," in its 11-ounce can, contains
52% milk and is artificially flavored with sucralose, a man-made
chlorinated compound. 600 times sweeter than table sugar this
compound only had 19 studies on it by the year 2000 - worrying
health advocates, considering compounds like pesticides were
often made with chlorinated compounds. Big tobacco used a
camel figure to con kids; Coca-Cola will now use a cow to
do the same.
Coca-Cola has now become an official sponsor of the national
PTA and Coke's vice president John Downs has a seat on the
PTA's board, giving Coca-Cola interests full voting rights.
The PTA, a well-regarded children's health advocate, has enlisted
itself as a lobbying springboard for a corporation with dreams
of flooding schools with their products, health concerns be
This is the same Coca-Cola Corporation that is looking to
display its logo on baby bottles. The same Coca-Cola culprits
have contracts with at least 6,000 of the nation's 14,000
public school districts and pays the Boy & Girls Clubs of
America $60 million a year to ensure that only coke is sold
in their 2,000 facilities nationwide. Coca-Cola has been instrumental
in lobbying against the World Health Organization's guidelines
stating that it is not healthy for humans to ingest sugar
as 10% of their diets.
Parents must be overjoyed. Their kids get a cool "milk
dude" with chlorinated sweeteners and twice the sodium
of Coca-Cola classic. Kids can alternate between "Swerve"
and regular Coca-Cola and corporate charlatans can laugh all
the way to the bank. What is not humorous is that we are inundating
children with caffeine, phosphoric acid and massive amounts
of sugar - the legacy will be the sickest generation of children
in modern United States history. Little is known about the
health effects of chlorinated sucralose, and it will only
be marketed in schools.
Some educational purists and visionaries will echo Tracey
Cooper, a Colorado Springs school district advertising manager.
When asked about having "Burger King buses" in their
school district (adorned with Burger King's logo), Ms. Cooper
replied, "In a perfect world we wouldn't have to do this."
Considering how important school is in our children's lives,
we really should not be forced to beg for crumbs off corporate
board office tables.
Coca-Cola's "Swerve" cow is now trying to overtake
the infamous"Joe Camel" cartoon character with all
the same deceit and malfeasance that the tobacco industry
produced for 50 years. Coke knows that the ticket to reaching
kids is repetition of message. Should that trusted teacher-figure
stay mute as kids drink sugary caffeine water and artificially
chlorinated pseudo milk drinks? In a just world, adults safeguard
children, and now is time to act.
Call the National PTA on their toll-free line at 800-307-4782,
ask them to advocate for kids, not soda pop corporations.
Ask them to drop Coca-Cola bigwig John Downs off their board.
Write Coca-Cola at their corporate office in Atlanta, Georgia
(PO Box 1734), 30301. Tell them to get out of our schools.
Ask them why they would provide a "milk drink" sweetened
with a chlorine product. Ask your local pediatrician to submit
a letter to your school district advising against the sale
of pop and sweetened milk substitutes. Ask that doctor to
join ranks with the American Academy of Pediatrics that recently
issued a statement in favor of a ban on selling soda pop to
Give your kids real milk. Give them water and try soy-milk
products. Make sweets a rare treat. Give Coca-cola and Swerve
the boot from our schools.
John F. Borowski is a marine and environmental science teacher
in Salem, Oregon. His pieces have appeared in the Utne Reader,
NY Times, Counterpunch and on many other sites. He can be
reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.