On Wednesday the Venezuelan Ministry for Health ordered the Coca-Cola Company to remove its product Coca-Cola Zero from sale for containing a cancerous ingredient, sodium cyclamate, an ingredient not included in the US version of the drink.
Jesus Mantilla, the health minister, said, "The product should stop circulating in order to protect the health of Venezuelans." He said the product contains sodium cyclamate, which in large amounts can be harmful, and then announced that the product should be recalled, destroyed, and not produced anymore.
Divis Antunez, director of sanitary control for the Health Ministry, said the ingredient wasn't in the company's application that it made in 2007 and that was approved by the Ministry. Later, in a random test conducted by the National Institute for Hygiene Rafael Rangel, sodium cyclamate was found and the Health Ministry started a legal process for non-compliance with the Health Registry.
Antunez said that the recommended amount of sodium cyclamate for human consumption is 11 mg per kilo, whereas the new Coca- Cola Zero has 18-22mg per 10 mils, exceeding the amount approved by the Venezuelan Commission of Industrial Norms (COVENIN).
Yesterday Coca-Cola said in a press release, "The Coca-Cola Company and its bottler Coca-Cola Femsa Venezuela responsibly declare that Coca-Cola Zero doesn't contain any ingredient that could be harmful to the health." However, Coca-Cola said that until the government concludes its administrative proceedings it will suspend production in Venezuela and recall the drink.
Coca-Cola Zero is a drink without any calories (or an amount small enough to be rounded down to zero) and is marketed to young males who are self conscious of their weight but see Diet Coke as being for women. The diet and zero versions in the US, England, and Canada both contain non-calorie sweeteners aspartame (E951) and acesulfame K (E950), but in slightly different proportions and they therefore have slightly different tastes.
However the versions produced in Venezuela (as well as in Chile and some other Central American countries) have sodium cyclamate (E952) in larger proportions than aspartame. Whilst aspartame is cleared by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), sodium cyclamate has been prohibited since 1969 when it was proved to cause cancerous tumours and congenital malformations.
Sodium cyclamate, when combined with other chemicals, has the capacity to sweeten up to 600 times more than sugar. According to Aporrea.org, it is also much cheaper than aspartame at $10/kilo compared to $152/kilo for aspartame.
In Mexico in August 2007, El Universal-Mexico reported that Coca-Cola was also putting sodium cyclamate in the coca-cola zero drink there. The article said that the drink contained 25mg of the ingredient for every 100g in a can of 355ml. Pro-U.S president Vicente Fox authorized the ingredient for the government's list of permitted food additives in July 2006.
In February 2008 Mexican feminist news Cimanoticias reported that consumers had "triumphed" and that the ingredient had been removed from the drink.