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Coke Zero Banned In Venezuela

June 11, 2009

On Wednesday, the Venezuelan government ordered Coca-Cola Co. to remove its Coke Zero beverage from the South American nation, claiming it poses an unspecified threat to health.

The decision was made after an influx of nationalizations and a close critical examination of businesses in South America’s leading oil exporter.

Health Minister Jesus Mantilla insists that the zero-calorie Coke Zero no longer be sold and that stocks of the drink should be removed from stores while the government investigates its ingredients.

The government’s new agency reported the minister as saying, “The product should be withdrawn from circulation to preserve the health of Venezuelans.”

Coca Cola argues that Coke Zero contains no harmful ingredients, but that it will cooperate in halting production by removing the product from shelves until the investigation is complete.

In a joint statement with its local bottling company, the company said, “Coca Cola Zero is made under the highest quality standards around the world and meets the sanitary requirements demanded by the laws of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.”

Despite Chavez’s anti-capitalist policies and vehement anti-consumerism rhetoric, Venezuela still remains one of Latin America’s most Americanized cultures, with popular U.S. fast-food chains, shopping malls and baseball.

Mantilla did not explain how Coke Zero, which contains artificial sweeteners, posed a health risk to the population.

Coke Zero was launched in Venezuela in April and Coca-Cola Femsa, the Mexico-based Coca-Cola bottling company, said at the time it was hoping to increase its market share for low calorie drinks by 200%.

The bottler suffered incredible labor problems last year in Venezuela when former workers repeatedly blocked its plants, demanding back pay.

This year the government seized a rice mill and pasta factory belonging to U.S. food giant Cargill and has threatened to take action against U.S. drug company Pfizer.

Chavez is also responsible for nationalizing a group of oil service companies, including projects belonging to Williams Companies and Exterran.

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