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Education Science

Science Fair Project Exposes GlaxoSmithKline Lies 253

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the fact-checking-advertisements dept.
shadowspar writes "Despite claims made by GlaxoSmithKline that their Ribena soft drinks are high in Vitamin C, two New Zealand high school students found in their science fair research project that at least some formulations of the drink contained no detectable levels of the vitamin. As a result, GSK has been fined over $200,000 by the NZ Commerce Commission and ordered to run newspaper ads admitting that some of their drinks contain no Vitamin C."
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Science Fair Project Exposes GlaxoSmithKline Lies

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  • Re:HAHAHAHAHA (Score:3, Insightful)

    by someone1234 (830754) on Saturday March 31, 2007 @12:57PM (#18556513)
    Only after thousands of consumers were cheated by GSK. $200k is pocket money.
  • by JackMeyhoff (1070484) on Saturday March 31, 2007 @01:00PM (#18556535)
    thinking its a healthy alternative. Thats like thinking Coca Cola Zero is a healthy alternative to regular cola. No suger no, but still the same shit and even worse, Aspartime. Well, I think of it as Darwins Law in the consumer space.
  • sugar (Score:1, Insightful)

    by circletimessquare (444983) <circletimessquare AT gmail DOT com> on Saturday March 31, 2007 @01:08PM (#18556601) Homepage Journal
    increases obesity (stroke, heart disease) and risk of diabetes. aspartame's real and clear dangers to your health are exactly what? the ideal is to stop drinking soft drinks altogether, we both agree to that. but if humpty dumpty is going to have a soft drink no matter what, and wants to choose between regular coke and coca cola zero, i'd rather he be drinking coca cola zero and avoid the sugar. in other words, yes, coca cola zero is a healthy alternative to regular coke. really. and i have no problem with coca cola marketing it this way. nor would anyone else without some bizarre chip on their shoulder. and no, i am not a shill for the coca cola bottling company. i'm a shill for common sense
  • by QuantumHobbit (976542) on Saturday March 31, 2007 @01:10PM (#18556609)
    There's this new drink called Orange Juice that claims to have even more Vitamin C. Scientists call it a break through in food science. There was a point were food scientist stopped producing useful foods like orange juice, peanut butter, and cornflakes, and started making consumers feel better about eating crap. I think it occurred about when the US became the fattest nation on Earth. PS. I like to think of Coke Zero as a tastier Diet Coke rather than a healthier Coke Classic. None of them are good for you, but two have fewer calories.
  • by Yurka (468420) on Saturday March 31, 2007 @01:20PM (#18556705) Homepage
    Ascorbic acid costs literally pennies; you can pick up a pound of the stuff retail at less than 15 dollars, and we're talking 7 milligrams in each bottle. What the heck were they thinking?
  • Re:sugar (Score:1, Insightful)

    by abscissa (136568) on Saturday March 31, 2007 @01:23PM (#18556731)
    sugar increases obesity (stroke, heart disease) and risk of diabetes.

    Sugar does not cause or increase the risk of diabetes. That is a common myth. Failure of the pancreas encourages diabetes.
  • We need more (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JohnnyGTO (102952) on Saturday March 31, 2007 @01:33PM (#18556803) Homepage
    of these kids and we need to really need to get our sorry asses in gear and stress more sciences in school. We really will be saved by our youth.
  • by WaterDamage (719017) on Saturday March 31, 2007 @01:50PM (#18556939)
    1. Make a product. 2. Lie to consumers by making false claims. 3. Make millions/billions in revenue and profits. 4. Executives laugh at the fine imposed and gladly pay $200,000 fine. 5. Pull product off shelves. 6. Profit! 7. Goto line 1 next quarter!
  • by LihTox (754597) on Saturday March 31, 2007 @01:59PM (#18557015)
    I wouldn't count TOO much on nature; human's natural lifespan seems to be "long enough to reproduce and raise children", with a high infant mortality rate (and a correspondingly high pregnancy rate too). Civilization is good for some things....

  • by kale77in (703316) on Saturday March 31, 2007 @02:06PM (#18557077) Homepage

    It's not trolling to point out that this was news at least 10 days ago. The Age in Melbourne last updated their story [theage.com.au] on May 21, though Google indexed it there [google.com.au] on the 20th.

    Mod parent +2 Apology.

  • by Khyber (864651) <techkitsune@gmail.com> on Saturday March 31, 2007 @02:20PM (#18557215) Homepage Journal
    It's Ascorbic Acid. Litmus paper would readily indicate it's presence. If they found the drink to be neutral pH, then someone with better equipment can actually verify the amount in the drink. Pretty simple.
  • by osu-neko (2604) on Saturday March 31, 2007 @02:48PM (#18557461)
    Pfft. If you get caught doing something wrong, I'm sure you'll be required to do a lot more than put out an ad about it. For example, if you're caught driving while intoxicated, the judge is not likely to say you need to place a classified admitting you were driving drunk. Rather, he's likely to revoke you driving privileges for six months or so. Rather than token punishments, we should actually punish corporations for wrongdoing similarly. GSK ought to have it's privileges to sell consumer products revoked for six months or so. A real punishment that befits the crime.
  • by causality (777677) on Saturday March 31, 2007 @02:51PM (#18557477)
    The quality of moderation has been on the decline as of late. Like the guy above who pointed this out, he was modded "Offtopic." When an article is posted,
    commenting about the article is on-topic EVEN when it's not commentary that you personally like. Anyone should be able to figure this out. It is so obvious I can't believe it has to be explained to anyone with mod points.

    Mods also need to figure out that anyone who vehemently disagrees is not "Flamebait" unless their primary purpose is to insult. But if they are using something resembling facts and logic, even if they're not G-rated nice, it's not flamebait.

    For this reason I am almost harsh when meta-moderating, which I do anytime the opportunity comes up. I am tired of this shit; shitty moderation is how you ruin a site like this and because it doesn't happen all at once and in-your-face but happens gradually over time, people don't see it this way.


    I fully expect to be modded Offtopic or Troll or Flamebait for "daring" to (again) call bullshit when I see it. My Karma is sitting at "Excellent" so do your worst and prove me right.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 31, 2007 @03:31PM (#18557841)
    Ascorbic acid is not stable in solution. (particularly with other solutes present as in soft drinks or juices, carbonation in particular will be a problem). The majority of orange and apple juice distributors spike extra ascorbic acid into their juices to account for this in order to provide a significant percentage of the recommended daily intake (RDI) in a single serving.

    So the question is, how long were these kids Ribena samples on the shelf before they purchased them? They might very well have had the advertised level of vitamin C when the left the plant. Note that the advertised ascorbic acid content is relatively low; 70 ppm. I can almost guarantee that levels this low will not survive more than a few months on the shelf, particularly in a carbonated solution. This could be the fault of the retailer or distributor, not the manufacturer.

    The other salient questions are: What was their sample size? Did they test only one bottle of each flavour? What analytical method did they use? Were the samples protected from elevated temperatures? The standard iodometric titration for ascorbic acid is not so easy, usually classes of second year university analytical chemistry students only have about a 60% success rate in the determination of ascorbic acid in solution, at levels considerably higher than 70 ppm.

    I doubt this story a great deal, it may be true, but too many questions are unanswered. I certainly hope that the regulatory agencies concerned performed their own study with a proper sample size and experienced analysts. Even professional and certified laboratories can be unreliable in their results, let alone a pair of high school students. I have participated in enough round-robin certifications, and developed enough FDA approved methods to know.

    IF, they are indeed correct, these girls have a future in analytical chemistry, not law.
  • by Strilanc (1077197) on Saturday March 31, 2007 @05:07PM (#18558913)
    Wouldn't the company have mentioned that?

    Innocent Company: *grabs a few bottles from random stores* "Here, test these and fuck off."
  • by Pyrrhic Diarrhea (1061530) on Saturday March 31, 2007 @05:08PM (#18558933)
    Calm down there buddy. The point of my post was not to paint you as one of the mindless consumers that grabs the box with the shiniest colors. The fact that you actively post on a website like this seperates you from the pack. Sheep typically don't make the effort.

    I should have been more precise. My problem is with the mindless masses accepting without examination that Coke Zero is superior in terms of health benefit to regular Coke. Without delving into the Aspertame v. Sugar debate again, the overarching issue was of more importance to me.

    And, while I did read your post (twice), I am not a hysterical nitwit, though your approbation does not concern me. I am, however, genuinely disgusted my the degree to which people are now affected by groupthink, and the related suceptibility to advertising. If we see it, we believe it. Perhaps not you, perhaps not me, but collectively, we as a nation.

    I think describing my post as a diatribe is a little harsh. Keep in mind that posts aren't usually aimed at the parent, but at the issue.
  • by Malacca (598693) on Saturday March 31, 2007 @06:01PM (#18559683)

    While it's true that the initial tip-off came from two high-schoolers, their results were confirmed by Commerce Commision testing. One can safely assume that the confirmatory tests were conducted under controlled conditions in an accredited laboratory. Which is why GSK copped the fine & has been trying to limit damage ever since.

    RTFA.

    No wait. This is slashdot...

  • by tkrotchko (124118) * on Saturday March 31, 2007 @06:08PM (#18559763) Homepage
    They could have augmented the juice with Vitamin C for basically nothing. I'm really surprised they've let the brand name be destroyed to save a few pennies.

    Sounds like a bureaucracy at it's finest.
  • by DoomfrogBW (1010579) on Saturday March 31, 2007 @11:16PM (#18562995)
    I find it hard to believe that a science project immediately led to the judgement against the company. These kids were smart, but I'm sure NZ scientists did their own tests.
  • by asninn (1071320) on Sunday April 01, 2007 @04:53AM (#18564981)
    While it's expected that advertisers lie, there is a difference between lying about hard facts and more, well, ephemeral claims. If an advertiser says "our laundry detergent is great", that's an ephemeral claim; you may dispute it, but there is no objective interpretation of what "great" means, so the advertiser is off the hook.

    FWIW, GSK probably could've gotten off the hook if there had been *some* vitamin C in the drink, too - "high in vitamin C" is also a rather ephemeral claim insofar as that it's not clear what "high" means. However, there also is a factual claim in there: namely, the claim that the drink contains at least *some* vitamin C, and that's what GSK apparently got in trouble for.

    In other words: if I sell you a computer "with a big hard disk", you can't complain if it's only a 40 GB drive, since I can reasonably argue that that's "big" (how can 40 *billion* bytes not be big?). But if the computer doesn't have any HD, you do have a case, since "a big hard disk" implies that there *is* a hard disk to begin with.
  • by rtb61 (674572) on Sunday April 01, 2007 @10:04AM (#18566375) Homepage
    Perhaps it is high time for random testing of all products available for human consumption. Where faults are found, suitable prison terms can be handed out to the executives responsible. That a couple of high school students found the fault is a even greater black mark against the government of those countries.

    How the hell is a consumer meant to survive in this era of corporate lies, when the governments of the day do absolutely nothing to ensure the products on the shelves actually adhere to the claims of the manufacturers.

    It is becoming abundantly clear that governments must institute an accurate system of verification and validation to ensure that product labelling is accurate and factual or are they going to so blatantly and corruptly ignore a growing problem, just so their corporate benefactors can rake in a few more percentage points of profit that the electorate has to die for.

I'd rather just believe that it's done by little elves running around.

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