Coca-Cola and the production of cocaine

There is a long association between Coca-Cola and the production of cocaine. The company stopped putting cocaine into their products some hundred years ago; it now contains ‘extract’ from the coca-leaf, referred to inside the company as ‘Merchandise #5’ and listed on their product labels as ‘vegetable extract’.

Coca-Cola dominated the licensed (i.e. legitimate) purchase of the raw coca-leaf, and might even be the sole licensed global buyer outside the Andes. The US Food and Drug Administration has issued only one licence to import the raw coca-leaf into the US, and that is to the Stephan Chemical Company who process the coca-leaf for Coca-Cola at their Maywood, New Jersey plant.

The by-product of ‘de-cocainisation’ of the raw leaf is, of course, cocaine. The Stephan Chemical Company, whose website refers to ‘speciality chemicals’, sells the cocaine on to Mallinckrodt Inc who process it at their Dublin plant for pharmaceutical companies.

In 1985 Coca-Cola, seeking to dissociate themselves from cocaine, launched ‘New Coke’ which didn’t contain any cocaine derivatives. It was a sales disaster despite huge marketing roll-out, and the company swiftly returned to the coca-laced formulation then advertised as Coca-Cola Classic — which begs the question as to whether the extract of the coca leaf they use contains properties that are psychoactive and create physical dependency.

note: As well as the hugely informative Citizen Coke by Bart Elmore mentioned in our blogpost about Coca-Cola and water, it’s worth reading what Dominic Streatfield says about Coca-Cola in his book Cocaine, notably the blurred boundaries between licensed coca-leaf and that grown for the illegitimate drugs trade.

[Featured image is by Lorena.]

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