Dubai: Research by a French institute that Coca-Cola and Pepsi contain traces of alcohol has raised concerns about health and consumer issues worldwide.
According to scientific tests of 19 colas carried out by the Paris-based National Institute of Consumption (INC), 10 had traces of alcohol, including Coca-Cola, Pepsi Cola, Coca-Cola Classic Light and Coke Zero.
The concentration of alcohol, although very scanty, may interact with a few medications - either increasing or decreasing the effect of drugs taken like blood thinners, and a few antibiotics which may alter the drug regimen and its effects
The research suggested that the alcohol levels are as low as 10mg in every litre, working out at around 0.001 per cent alcohol.
In the UAE, the Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority clarified late on Thursday night that tests and analysis conducted Thursday on random samples of soda drinks showed their consistency with UAE standards and regulations, WAM reported.
Effect on residents, patients
Speaking to Gulf News, Dr Hatem Soliman, Specialist Critical Care Medicine at Al Zahra Private Hospital, Sharjah, said that if the research is evidence-based and without bias, the compounds in the colas with traces of alcohol will affect residents, especially patients.
“The concentration of alcohol, although very scanty, may interact with a few medications — either increasing or decreasing the effect of drugs taken like blood thinners, and a few antibiotics which may alter the drug regimen and its effects. Moreover, the health hazards of these sugary beverages impact the heath of diabetic patients, and even in healthy people who are predisposed to obesity and osteoporosis among other conditions,” he said. Gulf News spoke to professionals in the health and fitness industry to gauge the impact of such finding.
Hussain Al Beshbeshy, Marketing Manager at Body Balancers, a wellbeing, sports and physiotherapy centre in Dubai, said that clear labelling of ingredients is necessary as a preventive measure. A person with food allergies, for example, should be made aware that a product could contain traces ingredients that could cause a reaction.
“Alcohol is toxic; the label should mention that the cola contains alcohol, specifying the percentage. So if a person knows he has a medical condition, he can make an informed decision,” he said.
Phill Robson, a sports and fitness consultant and founder of Phill Robson Sports and Fitness Academy in Dubai, said that most people probably won’t be affected by trace amounts of alcohol. However, the worry lies in the harmful effects of colas in general. People on weight-loss programmes tend to drink diet colas, he explained. These are harmful due to the sugar substitutes like aspartame that can cause metabolic issues. “Colas are harmful anyway whether they contain alcohol or not,” he said.
Take charge of your health
Jacques Caluwé Sr, a physiotherapist who treats and coaches top athletes, and author of ‘Consciously working with your body’, said if the research is true, it proves how big companies make money without considering the health of the consumer. “Think about the billions of children consuming colas without awareness and are hooked on it. People should be conscious about their health and take charge of it,” he said.
Dubai-based Saadia Asif, a Canadian banking professional who has been drinkiing one of the colas for the past 30 years, said she consumes at least two cans a day. When asked whether the research will influence her consumption habit, she said it depends on the quantity of alcohol. “If the percentage [of alcohol] doesn’t impact normal functioning, then its presence is negligible. However, I realise that colas with their high level of sugar and caffeine are bad for health to begin with.”
Dave Shennan, a New Zealander working in the events industry in Dubai, called for more transparency in food and beverage labelling. He said that in his country, food labelling is mandatory. If colas have ingredient labels, people who might be affected like those handling heavy machinery or driving long routes, have the necessary information before making a purchase.
“Once a consumer is aware, he can make an informed choice. Also there is need for research to learn about the effects alcohol in colas,” he said.
Emirati marketing professional Noora Al Fahim, who drinks a cola every day, said she was shocked. Making a case for proper labelling, she said: “The presence of any amount of alcohol should be mentioned. Currently there is no transparency in the cola industry.”
Adding weight to the issue of transparency, Dubai-based Indian training specialist Amalia Gomes said, “As a courtesy to those who might be offended due to cultural reasons or affected due to medical conditions, the label should clearly state it. Even if alcohol is present in minuscule amounts, not mentioning it is unacceptable, especially in an Islamic country.”