There's something about Coke that makes people enjoy spreading lies about it. Perhaps it's the topic of choice for many rumormongers because falsehoods about Coke often end up spreading far and wide. And how about the public? What is it about Coca-Cola that makes people especially susceptible to lies about it?
The "artificial" nature of Coke products must have something to do with its being a magnet for rumors. Unlike commercially marketed juice drinks, which people associate with the fruits from which they came, Coke seems to be an entirely "manufactured" beverage. Hence, people find it plausible that the chemists in Coca-Cola manufacturing plants use strange ingredients and do strange things to come up with their products. Furthermore, the public seems to be receptive to the idea that monstrous corporations such as Coca-Cola are involved in various conspiracies to maintain their competitive edge.
Here are ten lies spread about Coca-Cola that a significant percentage of the public still believes are real:
10 A Glass of Coca-Cola Can Dissolve a Tooth Overnight
No one is sure exactly where this myth about Coca-Cola began, but it's one that we can imagine a mother telling her children to stop them from drinking the carbonated beverage. However, there is a record of someone giving testimony on the falsehood during a 1950 committee hearing at the U.S. House of Representatives. More specifically, Cornell University's Clive McCay told American congressmen that the sugar in Coke caused cavities and that leaving a tooth in a glass of Coca-Cola for two days would result in the tooth being dissolved. In rebuttal, Coca-Cola's top chemist, Orville May, correctly explained that anything that contained phosphoric acid and sugar, including fresh orange juice, would dissolve teeth after some time -- but definitely not in one or two days. Furthermore, May correctly pointed out that people do not hold food and beverages in their mouths for hours, more so for days, thus making the "tooth in a glass of Coke" example a grossly misleading one.
9 Coca-Cola Created the Modern Image of Santa Claus
Sometime in 2000, the following information about Santa Claus was widely circulated via email:
The jolly old St. Nick that we know from countless images did not come from folklore, nor did he originate in the imaginations of Moore and Nast. He comes from the yearly advertisements of the Coca-Cola Company. He wears the corporate colors — the famous red and white — for a reason: he is working out of Atlanta, not out of the North Pole.
Attached to the email was the image of a Coca-Cola advertisement that showed Santa Claus as the overweight, white-bearded man that we know him as today. And as was the case for many falsehood-bearing emails of those days, a huge number of those who read the piece took its contents as fact. The truth is, however, that the image of the jolly red-suited Santa existed long before Coca-Cola started to feature him in its print advertisements beginning in the 1920s. In fact, the usual image of Santa began to appear in other advertisements as early as 1906. As for the true beginnings of the modern image of Santa Claus, it appears that his appearance is the result of an evolution that came about after decades of peoples' tastes shaping his features.
8 To Ensure Secrecy, No Employee Knows the Complete Coca-Cola Formula
The exact rumor is that only two Coca-Cola executives know the exact formula for Coca-Cola and that each one of them only has half of it -- an ingenious business practice, except that Coca-Cola doesn't really carry it out. In all likelihood, many Coca-Cola employees know how their beverages are made. However, the company hasn't exerted a lot of effort in dispelling the secrecy rumor either. Truth is, the perception that the Coca-Cola formula is a tightly guarded secret seems to work in Coca-Cola's favor by making the product appear to be a highly valuable one. In fact, the company has occasionally added fuel to the fire of the secrecy rumor. For example, 1916-1931 Coca-Cola head Ernest Woodruff occasionally spoke to the media about the company's extreme secrecy measures for their prized products. Research today seems to dispel those claims, though.
Nevertheless, it's interesting to note that Kentucky Fried Chicken does implement a variation of the clever business practice -- its secret blend of herbs and spices are mixed at two different locations then combined at a third.
7 Coca-Cola Is Owned by the Mormons
There's just something about Mormons that makes people love to spread rumors about them. Some of these fabricated stories include how Mormons believe there are people on the moon and that they think God had sex with Mary to create Jesus. And then there's the one about Coca-Cola -- about how Mormons secretly own the company and have been made incredibly rich by it. Surprisingly, there are still some who think the story is true and even point out how ironic it is that Mormons themselves are forbidden from consuming caffeinated drinks (again, another twisted truth).
The reality is that Coca-Cola is a publicly traded company with 5% of its shares being held by founders' relatives and former and current executives of the business, while a huge chunk of the rest of the shares are owned by various mutual and institutional fund owners, plus some other individual investors. Of course, some of them may actually be Mormon, but the caffeinated beverage company is definitely not owned by the Mormons as a whole.
6 Pouring Coca-Cola Onto Raw Pork Will Result in Worms Crawling Out of the Meat
This rumor is really about pork, but somehow, Coca-Cola -- the wonder liquid that it is -- was incorporated into the story. The falsehood goes that pouring Coke over uncooked pork, such as a pork chop or bacon, will result in tiny worms coming out of the meat. The rumor even goes on to label the creatures as tapeworms and explain that Coke will make them move out of the meat since the beverage is toxic to them. Other versions of the myth involve drawing an outline around a slab of pork then pouring Coke over it to observe the pork "moving on its own" beyond the lines.
A fake video of the supposed phenomenon helped spread the rumor even more widely and caused a countless number of people to swear that they would never eat pork again. The truth, however, is that pork is normally free of worms unless larvae grow on it after the pork (any meat, actually) is exposed to flies that could lay their eggs on them.
5 Drinking Coca-Cola With Aspirin Will Result in a High (or Death)
In the early 1930s, a doctor from Illinois requested the "Journal of American Medical Association" to inform the public that teenagers were putting aspirin into their Cokes because doing so resulted in an intoxicating beverage that eventually resulted in addiction. However, because the man's claim was found to be baseless, his letter was set aside. For some reason though, the rumor gained traction, and soon it was accepted by several as true, some even claiming to have experienced the "Coke-aspirin effect" for themselves. When news of the supposedly accessible "drug" spread, some parents, perhaps to stop their children from trying the concoction, told their children that drinking Coca-Cola with aspirin could kill a person -- of course, also a lie.
4 Drinking Diet Coca-Cola Then Swallowing a Mentos Can Kill You
The effect of dropping a piece of Mentos into a bottle of Diet Coke is quite well-known. In fact, several videos featuring the reaction have been posted on YouTube. Here's one of the more popular ones:
Those who first learn about the dramatic "Mentos - Diet Coke effect" might very well ask, "So what would happen if I swallow Mentos right after drinking Diet Coke?" Probably taking off from that idea, someone came up with an email about a boy in Brazil who died after eating Mentos and drinking Diet Coke -- clearly pure fiction since chewing on a Mentos would destroy its surface and make it unable to create a dramatic effect. Furthermore, even if the Mentos were swallowed whole after guzzling down gallons of Diet Coke, acids in the stomach would neutralize the substances and result in no noteworthy effect, except a tolerable stomachache at worst.
3 The Cursive Coca-Cola Logo Features a Cocaine Snorter
The rumor that Coca-Cola's cursive logo, set vertically, reveals the image of a hat-wearing man snorting cocaine would have been a terrific clincher for another cocaine-related rumor about Coke -- that the company induces Coke addiction by including trace amounts of cocaine in its beverages. Actually, that Coke once contained cocaine was true until 1929, before coca leaf extract was altogether eliminated as an ingredient of the product. However, even before 1929, the amount of cocaine in Coke was so small that it couldn't have possibly caused a significant effect in consumers. So why then is there a cocaine-snorting man hidden in the Coca-Cola script logo? Well, it can't possibly be a cocaine snorter that appears in the logo designed by Frank Mason Robinson in 1886 -- unless he could see into the future. At that time, cocaine was an over-the-counter product, and no one snorted cocaine then since it was a liquid product.
2 Coca-Cola Is Willing to Pay Fines for Lying About Calorie Content
An email containing the following text circulated sometime around 1990:
There was an old rumour that stated that a particular diet soda company (Coke I believe) paid a fine to print their cans as stating that the soda had 'just one calorie'. According to the rumour, companies who knowingly printed misinformation on the nutritional facts of their product would have to pay a fine. The company in question figured it could make more money by convincing people the product only had 1 calorie than it would cost to pay the fine, meaning a higher profit margin for them.
The strategy would have been a brilliant one for Coca-Cola if it were true. But that would have made the Food and Drug Administration absolutely irresponsible for allowing Coke to continue falsely advertising its products simply by paying a fine. Alas, the rumor is a myth as even if Coca-Cola could afford to pay such a fine for false advertising, it certainly wouldn't be able to survive the slew of lawsuits filed by diabetics.
1 The Failed "New Coke" Was a Ploy to Bring Attention to "Classic Coke"
Coca-Cola is so wildly successful that people find it hard to believe that failure of "New Coke" in 1985 was unforeseen by the company. Instead, some people found it more plausible that Coke wanted to revive interest in "Classic Coke", so it marketed "New Coke" to get people to miss the original product. In so doing, when "Classic Coke" came back, it would enjoy a marked spike in sales. However, despite how brilliant that marketing ploy would have been for Coca-Cola, the truth is that the company simply committed a miscalculation when it marketed "New Coke".
In 1982, after Diet Coke was introduced to the market, the beverage shot up to become the fourth most purchased soft drink in America behind only Coke (#1), Pepsi (#2), and 7-Up (#3). An unfortunate consequence was that Pepsi managed to close in on Coke's lead, and even if the true reason for that was because many Coke drinkers had shifted to Diet Coke, Coca-Cola didn't want Pepsi to be able to say it was the #1 carbonated drink in the United States. The solution that Coca-Cola came up with was to make Coke taste more like Pepsi, which studies had shown was favored by more people in terms of taste. The ploy turned out to be huge mistake as replacing Classic Coke with New Coke caused widespread consumer outrage, and Coca-Cola had practically no choice but to bring the old formula back after just a week of New Coke's debut.