"For God, Country & Coca-Cola"

October 15, 2013



"For God, Country & Coca-Cola"

By Mark Pendergrast
Basic Books, $21.99 (Paperback)

Reviewer: JoANN M. VALENTI

Editor’s Note: This is an updated, third edition of a book originally published in 1994.

One can speculate why Mark Pendergrast felt compelled to update his epic book about Coca Cola, described as the “definitive history of the great American soft drink and the company that makes it.” But Pendergrast insists he was not out to slam the soft drink industry or capitalism in general.

One thing he did set out to do, and of special note to SEJ members, is delve into a mix of environmental issues at various junctures, such as controversies over solid waste disposal and excessive use of ground water; fears of BPA contamination; deforestation in Nicaragua and Belize; and concerns about how migrant workers have been treated in Florida.

Pendergrast weaves the company’s story around a 125-year history of global politics, culture, union battles, nutrition scares and advertising jingles, including marketing ploys meant to entice impulse buying.

The company’s history, according to Pendergrast, cascades through misconduct probes by the FBI and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission; racial discrimination lawsuits; and allegations of international bribery and front organizations formed to fight taxes. The evolution of the company runs through encounters with communism, Nazis, the United Nations, Alger Hiss, Henry Luce, Cesar Chavez and Ralph Nader, to name a few.

This tome is a gem of American history. In this latest edition, Pendergrast reprints the original recipe for Coca-Cola, sans the cocaine removed in 1903.

JoAnn Valenti, Ph.D. emerita professor, is on SEJournal’s editorial board. She also is a reformed Dr. Pepper fan.

* From the quarterly newsletter SEJournal, Fall 2013. Each new issue of SEJournal is available to members and subscribers only; find subscription information here or learn how to join SEJ. Past issues are archived for the public here.

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