Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Coke and A Smile

I got to thinking lately about the shelf life of mass-produced food, following a conversation on the ASFS listserve - indestructable twinkies and Otis Spunkmeyer muffins. I realized there has been a plastic bottle of coke on a shelf in my office for 7 years. I bought it when I first started doing a big food history course, and we got to the topic of high fructose corn syrup, long commodity food chains, mass production and so forth, so I bought this by way of illustration. It's been there ever since.

I think it's fair to say that Coke does not have a long shelf life. Notice how you can almost see through it now, and how the plastic bottle is slowly imploding. I think this kind of PET bottle (basically polyster) is supposed to leach arsenic or something into the bottle if kept too long, so I'm assuming this is now poison. So modern mass produced food can stay on the shelf for years in some cases, but this may be just as scary - what resolutely should not stay on the shelf. But I'm sure it sometimes does. Glad I don't drink the stuff, unless with rum of course.


LMB said...

Is it Coke that doesn't have a long shelf life – or the bottle it's packaged in?

The reason for this inquiry is that, long ago in a grade school science class, we marinated a tooth (donated by some kid whose parents refused to contribute to the Tooth Fairy mythology) in a (glass) bottle of Coke. At some point (kids have no sense of time), the tooth disappeared, ostensibly dissolved by the glowing amber elixir. (Or maybe the Tooth Fairy got it after all).

Of course, one wonders whether it was simply one of those fascistic stunts pulled by elementary school teachers (but never university professors, Ken) to convince their naive charges of the evils of something or other.

But since that time, I've clung to the quixotic idea that Coke is forever. And it's forever great with rum...

Ken Albala said...

Imb, I've heard this very tooth-dissolving myth many times. I'll have to try it the next time one of my sons loses one. I for one am inclined to believe it. But yes, you're right, it's the packaging that's evil incarnate - the plastic bottle. I've been reading lately about the damage to the environment casued by the spike in bottled drinking water, which people thing is better for health, without considering the costs and pollution in manufacturing, transport, even with recycling. Drink tap water or vodka from a glass bottle.

Chris said...

Decaying teeth is one of many wonderful properties of coke. It's a great chrome cleaner, toilet cleaner, grease remover from clothing. An all purpuse cleaner that puts Dr. Bonner's to timid shame. Why? Coke (and Pepsi, et al) has a pH of roughly 3.4. Which is a level of acid that can in fact dissolve bones. And when that happens in adults, little calcium deposits form in your kidneys and create stones. Lovely. But I'm not a doctor.

But who cares about that? The best part of a plastic bottle of coke sitting on your shelf for 7 years means that there's been a nice leaching process of bisphenol A from the plastic. Great stuff. A known endocrine disrupter, bisphenol A shows up in most plastics including baby formula bottles and containers. And essentially what endocrine disrupters do is screw with hormonal balances. A stepping stone (so to speak) to beast cancer in women, it also leads to infertile sperm in men and generally detrimental natal development. And it's everywhere.

I know next to nothing about medicine or chemistry and maybe I'm spreading ghastly enviro rumors. So here's a Wiki link:

Cheers Big Ears!

Jim L said...

I have a six pack of collectors addition bottled coke from Christmas 1995. which would make it say. . . 15 yrs has not changed color that much. and has not been in direct sun light.

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