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Coke, Pepsi to push marketing of 'healthy' carbonated beverages

In an effort to make up for slumping sales of both sugared and diet soda, both Coca-Cola Co. and PepsiCo will soon be introducing carbonated drinks fortified with vitamins and minerals. Diet Coke Plus and Pepsi's Tava will be marketed as "sparkling beverages." There is considerable skepticism in the health community about these beverages.

What you need to know -
Conventional View

 * Sales of carbonated soft drinks in the United States dropped for the first time in 2005, and the trend has continued since then. Industry analysts have attributed this to increasing consumer concern over health, including a desire to avoid excessive sugar and artificial ingredients.

* Coca-Cola CEO E. Neville Isdell insists that "diet and light brands are actually health and wellness brands." Fortified soft drinks are the industry's latest effort to convince consumers of this.

* The first fortified soda was produced by Cadbury Schweppes in 2004: 7-Up Plus. In 2006, Cadbury tried to label regular 7-Up as "100 percent natural" but ended up changing the label to "100 percent natural flavor" after complaints that high fructose corn syrup did not qualify as a natural ingredient.

* Diet Coke Plus will be fortified with niacin, vitamin B-6, vitamin B-12, magnesium, and zinc. Tava will be fortified with vitamin B-3, vitamin B-6, vitamin E and chromium.

* PepsiCo is also introducing Diet Pepsi Max, which contains ginseng and extra caffeine.

* Quote: "Lower-calorie beverages are clearly the growth area." - Dawn Hudson, CEO of Pepsi-Cola North America

What you need to know -  Alternative View Statements and opinions by Mike Adams, executive director of the Consumer Wellness Center

* This effort to brand sugary carbonated beverages as health drinks is a thinly-veiled attempt to jump on the health bandwagon with products that simply aren't healthy.

* Fortifying unhealthful beverages with synthetic forms of vitamins does not magically transform them into healthful drinks. You cannot counteract the harmful effects of sugar, phosphoric acid and aspartame with tiny quantities of synthetic vitamins.

Bottom line
* Coke and Pepsi will both soon be introducing sodas fortified with vitamins and minerals.

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