Tests show trace alcohol levels but Coke insists it has Islamic acceptance

By Ben Bouckley

- Last updated on GMT

Tests show trace alcohol levels but Coke insists it has Islamic acceptance
Despite French test results showing that Coke contains trace levels of alcohol, the company insists they occur naturally in many foods and beverages, with the drink accepted as non-alcoholic in all countries where Islam is the principle religion.

Ibolya Szabo, senior communication manager, Coca-Cola Europe, told BeverageDaily.com this morning: “Coca-Cola is recognised as a non-alcoholic beverage and we do not add alcohol as an ingredient.”

She was reacting to news of tests conducted by the French Institut National de la Consumption (INC), which found that close to half of the 19 colas examined contained traces of alcohol, including Pepsi and Coke.

French magazine 60 Millions de Consommateurs​ commissioned the tests, and will publish the test results in its July-August issue; the publication said that its “thorough investigation”​ found alcohol levels were less than 10mg per litre or 0.001% alcohol by volume (ABV).

Millions of Muslim Coke drinkers

Since millions of Islamic consumers across Europe and worldwide drink Coke, BeverageDaily.com asked the firm how significant the news was, given that Muslims are forbidden to drink alcohol.

Trace levels of alcohol could occur naturally in many foods and beverages, Szabo added, and governments and religious organisations recognised that such minute levels were acceptable in non-alcoholic products.

“All of our products are safe and meet the safety requirements, laws and practices in every country where our brands are sold,”​ she added.

Even though Coca-Cola’s soft drink products could not be formally certified as halal, they were officially recognised and registered as non-alcoholic beverages and they contain no meat, Szabo said.

“In all countries where Islam is the principal religion, our soft drink products are accepted by the local governments as non-alcoholic and suitable for consumption.”

‘Rigorously regulated’ product

Szabo said the ingredients and manufacturing process used to produce Coca-Cola was rigorously regulated by government and health authorities in more than 200 countries which had consistently recognised it as a non-alcoholic product.

Both Pepsi and Coke are made according to secret recipes, in respect of the plant extracts used in their colas; 60 Millions​ said its tests detected cinnamon, nutmeg, citrus, phosphoric acid and (a subject of some controversy this week​), colorant E150d.

Intriguingly, though, US radio show This American Life ​made world headlines last November​ by making their own cola after sourcing a ‘Coco Cola’ recipe containing alcohol that it claimed was similar to Atlanta-based inventor John Pemberton’s original, or a version of Coke made before or after its initial launch in 1886.

60 Millions ​journalists Patricia Chairopoulos and Thomas Laurenceau seemed more perturbed by the INC's finding that full-sugar Carrefour cola contained 19 sugar cubes per litre, Pepsi 17 and Coke 18: six per 330ml can.

Related topics: Carlsberg, Markets, Ingredients

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