x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Alcohol said to be Coca-Cola's secret ingredient

American radio station reveals alcohol as the mystery ingredient to Coca-Cola's success

It has been one of the most closely guarded commercial secrets for more than a century, but now an American radio station reckons it might have uncovered the secret ingredients that make Coca-Cola the real thing.

And one of those ingredients, according to the Chicago-based public radio programme This American Life, is alcohol.

Khalid Mohammed Shareef, the director of the food control department at Dubai Municipality, dismissed the possibility of alcohol in Coke as a longtime rumour they have disproved with extensive laboratory tests.

"We have good connections with all the labs all over the world, and we couldn't find any single thing to show us there is alcohol," he said. "I am 100 per cent sure because we did all the tests."

"This story has been around for a long time," he said.

It was also unlikely from an ethical or commercial standpoint, he said. "All people drink Coke, from small to big. It's not right that they would put alcohol inside."

The crucial - and very secret - ingredient of Coke has been a mixture known only as "7X".

John Pemberton, a medicinal chemist who devised the formula for the soft drink in 1886, refused to divulge the make-up of 7X until his death and the recipe is now locked away in a bank vault in Atlanta with only two senior Coca-Cola employees knowing the ingredients at any one time.

But according to the radio programme, a colleague of Mr Pemberton's did write down the formula at the time and that a photograph of his notes was published, without fanfare, on page 28 of the Atlanta Constitution-Journal 32 years ago.

According to this recipe, the constituents of 7X, described on a can of Coke simply as "natural flavourings including caffeine", consist of alcohol and the oils of orange, lemon, nutmeg, coriander and neroli.

Mark Pendergrast, who has written a history of the drink, told the radio show: "I think that it certainly is a version of the formula.

"The company has always said, and as far as I know it's true, that at any given time only two people know how to mix the 7X flavouring ingredient.

"Those two people never travel on the same plane in case it crashes; it's this carefully passed-on secret ritual and the formula is kept in a bank vault."

Coca-Cola has fought a string of legal challenges to force it to reveal its formula and, in 1977, the company pulled out of India rather than divulge it to the government.

The only comments the company has made in recent years on the secret ingredients have been to confirm that the drink originally included cocaine but that the narcotic was removed from the recipe in the early 1900s.

Coca-Cola's public relations manager in Australia, Susie Crumpton, would neither confirm nor deny that This American Life's recipe was genuine.

"The ingredients used in our beverages are listed on the product labels and many people have tried over time to crack the secret formula of Coca-Cola," she said in a statement.

"That secret combination of ingredients holds a special place in the history and mythology of Coca-Cola - something we continue to celebrate as we mark our 125th anniversary this year."