First there was Coke, then New Coke and then Coke Classic. Well according to the news program I was watching this morning, Coke now contains mercury (in many instances).

Apparently, the sweetener of choice for Coke is corn syrup (or fructose-glucose in Canadian labels). They switched a number of years back from table sugar to reduce costs. In the process of extracting the sugars from corn they use a chemical with Mercury in it. Sometimes, they don't get all the mercury out… mercury in your body is bad. And by the way, this is a problem for all foods with corn syrup in them.

I would imagine that Coke buys its sweeteners by the trainload as a bulk commodity. Who knows which plant the corn syrup with Mercury is coming from or even which country the processing happens in.

There are three lessons to learn here for almost any business:

  1. How do you control the quality of the pieces you outsource?
  2. How quickly can you respond and fix the problem?
  3. How much risk do the first two impose on your business and how do you mitigate it?

In China companies were brought down, charges were laid against individuals and executives committed suicide in the recent tainted baby formula scandal.

A company can reduce risk by having enforcing stringent rules on its suppliers, especially if you are a powerful corporation like Coke. Independent testing, quality control and good problem response processes can also help, but these things all cost money.

This is not likely to bring down Coke, but it does make you really think hard about the reliability of our food supply and the degree of accountability imposed on the supply chain.

And speaking of mercury, I think fish is on the menu for supper tonight… you can't win.