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Education Science

Science Fair Project Exposes GlaxoSmithKline Lies 253

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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  • Old news (Score:5, Informative)

    by basic0 ( 182925 ) <> on Saturday March 31, 2007 @12:54PM (#18556481)
    "Slashdot. News for Nerds (two weeks after AP runs it and it appears on Yahoo's front page). Stuff that mattered."
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 31, 2007 @01:09PM (#18556607)
    I heard an interview with one of the girls. When they first tried to contact the company, they were stonewalled so they started contacting other people and the next thing they knew was they were on the international news.

    For a company to ignore even fourteen year olds and hope they will just go away is really dumb. Better to deal with the problem before it gets big.

    Anyway, what I understood the company to have said was something like: "The berries that this product is made from have more vitamin C than orange juice." The problem being, of course, that none of the vitamin C made it into the product.
  • by abscissa ( 136568 ) on Saturday March 31, 2007 @01:30PM (#18556781)
    Sugar does not cause diabetes: abetes []

    You could say that sugar causes diabetes in the same way that cigarette lighters cause lung cancer.
  • Re:Old news (Score:2, Informative)

    by laggist ( 784355 ) on Saturday March 31, 2007 @01:39PM (#18556851)
    the post above is not a troll.. this is really old! i've even read it on my local dailies, and my local food sciences body has just reassured everyone that GSK's ribena drink *is* indeed rich in vitamin C [] (at least in Singapore, because we get stuff made in either Malaysia or the Philipines)..
  • Really, I remember quite good the glass in baby food (company was Gerber) in the late '80's and early '90's. I was still little back then and living in Europe, and even there we had reports of glass shards in baby food. Gerber seemed to try covering it up, but there were hundreds of reports in multiple COUNTRIES, and although the FDA said they didn't found any fractions harmful to babies, I believe that there was some heavy lobbying going on. But now we seemed to have forgotten all about it.

    The NYT has this article from back in the days: lth&res=9A0DE3D71731F931A35750C0A960948260 [] and here is an essay on it including sources []
  • Re:sugar (Score:3, Informative)

    by MPAB ( 1074440 ) on Saturday March 31, 2007 @02:03PM (#18557059)
    Still excess sugar leads to obesity which, in genetically susceptible people, can trigger glucose intolerance (glucose remains high on the blood for a long time after eating) or Type II Diabetes.
  • Re:A dangerous game (Score:5, Informative)

    by simulacrum25 ( 664049 ) on Saturday March 31, 2007 @02:09PM (#18557121)
    For those who read the article,

    The students *didn't* take their findings to the press. They turned their findings into the Commerce Commission who launched an investigation.
  • Re:sugar (Score:3, Informative)

    by Dun Malg ( 230075 ) on Saturday March 31, 2007 @02:31PM (#18557325) Homepage

    [sugar] increases obesity (stroke, heart disease) and risk of diabetes.
    Sugar is a natural part of our diet.

    aspartame's real and clear dangers to your health are exactly what?
    About 10% of ingested aspartame (by weight) is converted to methanol, which turns into formaldehyde. Our bodies can handle small quantities of formaldehyde, but it's definitely not good for us.
    About 40% of it is converted to aspartic acid. Aspartic acid is tolerated at low levels, but if it spikes to high levels (as it does when aspartame is consumed and absorbed quickly, as in a beverage) it is an excitotoxin [], potentially causing nerve and brain cell damage.
    Relation to cancers of various sorts are implied by some, but are largely unproven. Studies on humans show no cancer increase, but because aspartame is hardly a quarter century old, there does not exist a human population over age 40 (the age range where they look for cancer correlations) that has had a life-long exposure to it. Studies with rats show increase in some cancers in correlation with aspartame ingestion starting at a young age. It'll be about 2020 before a meaningful study of lifelong aspartame consumption and cancer can be made.

    Basically, what it comes down to is that aspartame does turn into harmful substances in the body, but that the effect is probably entirely dependent on the individual's health and the quantity consumed.

    Sugar is just sugar. Like any other nutrient, overindulgence causes problems. Personally, I'll stick with sugar and monitor my consumption, rather than lavishly indulging my sweet tooth with a mildly toxic artificial sweetener that may or may not be too much for my liver and brain to handle.
  • Re:A dangerous game (Score:2, Informative)

    by Hebbinator ( 1001954 ) on Saturday March 31, 2007 @03:34PM (#18557867)

    (article 1)
    "They found Ribena did not contain the advertised level of vitamin C. GlaxoSmithKline didn't reply when the students approached the firm with their findings, so they took their results to a TV show.

    Then the commerce commission got involved, leading GlaxoSmithKline to plead guilty to 15 advertising-related charges on Tuesday."

    (article 2)

    "After attempts to contact Ribena resulted in a brush-off, the duo went to Fair Go. As well as filming the story, the organisation told the girls to contact the Commerce Commission, which they did." []
    They took it to a 'investigative journalism' TV show first (aka 'The Press' - their motto is "If you've been ripped off, short-changed or given the runaround and nobody wants to know...we do!"), and then the TV people suggested that they take it to the CC.

    Dont be a hater =)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 31, 2007 @03:43PM (#18557955)
    There's an additional factor in this. It's been discovered that Vitamin C combines with the preservative benzoic acid in beverages while on the shelf to form benzene! And so many of the drinks touted as being good for children are actually slowly putting toxins into their systems. Benzene is known as a cancer-causing agent. This too will be a coming legal issue.
  • by stalebread ( 920322 ) on Saturday March 31, 2007 @05:03PM (#18558865)
    This is what GlaxoSmithKline posted here: []. Anyone care to comment?

    You may have heard recently some Ribena drinks in Australia and New Zealand have been found to contain less Vitamin C than stated on pack. The case came about because the method we had used for testing Australian and New Zealand products was not sensitive enough to measure the natural break down in Vitamin C that occurs over time while this type of product is on shelf. First things first: we wanted to reassure you this isn't the case in the UK. Ribena contains the levels of Vitamin C as stated on our packaging and we're still committed to producing the same quality refreshment that's been enjoyed in the UK for the last 70 years. During that time we've worked with three generations of blackcurrant growers to create the unique Ribena taste we know our consumers love. We also wanted to let you know that people who consume Ribena are obviously our number one concern. It was never our intention to mislead consumers in Australia and New Zealand and we're really sorry this has happened. We've moved to a new method of testing Vitamin C levels in those countries and we're also developing a new recipe for our drinks in Australia and New Zealand to ensure Vitamin C levels are maintained over shelf life. If you have any questions then give us a bell on 0800 096 3666. The Ribena Consumer Careline Team
  • by ernest.cunningham ( 972490 ) on Saturday March 31, 2007 @05:55PM (#18559595) Homepage
    Vitamin C is destroyed when it is exposed to air. When fruit is turned into juice it is always exposed to air. Most fruit juices you buy from the supermarket that do have vitamin c, it is usually added to the juice just prior to bottling. So it is not entirely unexpected Ribena has little vitamin c content. However that does not make it right to mislead consumers. The Commerce Commission fined GlaxoSmithKline only $200k, basically to cover court costs etc, but let the consumers decide the real fine to GlaxoSmithKline by making them take out the advertisements. So it is up to you who are reading this to determine if you are going to fine GlaxoSmithKline by not purchasing their product. More alarming to me is that small bottles of sparkling Ribena contain very little if any vitamin C, but they do contain 11 teaspoons of sugar, which is 40% more than a bottle of Coke. This is what we all feed our children! Not any more.
  • by reub2000 ( 705806 ) on Saturday March 31, 2007 @08:01PM (#18561143)
    Because Pirate's Booty [] was found to have a lot more fat than advertised.
  • Re:sugar (Score:3, Informative)

    by NoMaster ( 142776 ) on Saturday March 31, 2007 @08:07PM (#18561191) Homepage Journal

    ... but the HFCS that has replaced it in most countries ...
    Most countries? Nope. HFCS is virtually unheard of in most of the rest of the developed world.

    In fact, from your own link : "... he was surprised to hear that fructose and HFCS had become common sweeteners in the United States. He said they were virtually unheard of in England ..."

God help those who do not help themselves. -- Wilson Mizner