Does Coca-Cola contain cocaine?

When launched Coca Cola’s two key ingredients were cocaine (benzoylmethyl ecgonine) and caffeine. The cocaine was derived from the coca leaf and the caffeine from kola nuts – Coca-Cola (the ‘K’ in Kola was replaced with a C for marketing purposes).

Coca – Cocaine

Pemberton called for five ounces of coca leaf per gallon of syrup, a significant dose, whereas, in 1891, Candler claimed his formula (altered extensively from Pemberton’s original) contained only a tenth of this amount. Coca Cola did once contain an estimated nine milligrams of cocaine per glass, but in 1903 it was removed. Coca Cola still contains coca flavouring.

After 1904, Coca Cola started using, instead of fresh leaves, “spent” leaves – the leftovers of the cocaine-extraction process with cocaine trace levels left over at a molecular level. To this day, Coca Cola uses as an ingredient a cocaine free coca leaf extract prepared at a Stepan Company plant in Maywood, New Jersey.

In the United States, Stepan Company is the only manufacturing plant authorized by the Federal Government to import and process the coca plant. Stepan laboratory in Maywood, New Jersey, is the nation’s only legal commercial importer of coca leaves, which it obtains mainly from Peru and, to a lesser extent, Bolivia. Besides producing the coca flavouring agent for Coca Cola, Stepan Company extracts cocaine from the coca leaves, which it sells to Mallinckrodt, a St. Louis, Missouri pharmaceutical manufacturer that is the only company in the United States licensed to purify cocaine for medicinal use. N.J. Stepan buys about 100 metric tons of dried Peruvian coca leaves each year, said Marco Castillo, spokesman for Peru’s state-owned National Coca Co.

Kola Nuts – Caffeine

Kola nuts act as a flavouring in Coca Cola, but are also the beverage’s source of caffeine. In Britain, for example, the ingredient label states “Flavourings (Including Caffeine)”. Kola nuts contains about 2 to 3.5 percent caffeine, is of bitter flavour and is commonly used in cola soft drinks. In 1911 The US government initiated United States v. Forty Barrels and Twenty Kegs of Coca-Cola, hoping to force Coca Cola to remove caffeine from its formula. The case was decided in favour of Coca Cola. Subsequently, in 1912 the US Pure Food and Drug Act was amended, adding caffeine to the list of “habit-forming” and “deleterious” substances which must be listed on a product’s label.

Coca Cola contains 34 mg/12 fl oz of caffeine, while Diet Coke Caffeine-Free contains 0 mg. Caffeine may be used by athletes as ergogenic aid – to increasing the capacity for mental or physical labor. The ergogenic qualities of caffeine are contested, although there is strong evidence that it may significantly enhance endurance performance. For this reason, caffeine is listed as a restricted substance by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). Nevertheless Coca Cola was the leading sponsor of the 1996 summer Olympic games.


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