(The seduction of designer carbonation and its consequences on developing world neonates)

An alleged disease in infants caused by the substitution of baby formula or Breast milk2 for branded soft drinks. Common symptoms are dehydration and malnutrition. Found in developing countries and the result of Corporations successful marketing their products resulting in locals forsaking traditional wisdom about diet in exchange for foods with the perceived enriching vapors of connotation.

Background from McSpotlight.com Soft drinks have been described as making the "most extensive dietary impact of foreign corporations in the developed world". They are usually priced just within the reach of the poorest in these countries and may represent, via their glossily advertised images, symbols of an enviable Western lifestyle.Because of the relative poverty of many people in the Third World, staple foods may be neglected in preference to soft drinks.

Zambia and the coining of a term
In 19691 it was reported that babies in Zambia had become malnourished because their mothers fed them Coke and Fanta, believing it was the best thing they could give their children2,3. Around the time 54% of the seriously malnourished children admitted to the children's hospital at Ndola had 'Fantababy' written on their progress charts. The Zambian government subsequently banned Fanta advertisements "because of their influence on the poor".

Parallel examples in Brazilian children
A study at the Nutrition Institute in Rio de Janeiro found high levels of consumption of Coke, Fanta and Pepsi in its survey of school children between 6-14 years old. All the children showed signs of vitamin deficiency whilst the poorest of them also showed protein/calorie malnutrition.

Effects on Mexican peasants
A Mexican priest wrote, in 1974, that Mexican villagers believed soft drinks should be consumed every day, leading to lower consumption of natural products such as fruit. Some families were even seen to be selling their natural products in order to buy soft drinks.

Fantababy could be an urban myth and the stories relating to it exaggerated. As yet, external confirmation has been difficult to find, without journal references from the period, the historical fact of "Fantababy" is unclear, but one thing is true and easy to check: The Zambia of today is not that of 1969.1

Conversely, there is ample evidence that soft drinks and the soft drink industry have had a negative effect in "developing countries" over the last forty years. Indigenous peoples turning away from low impact - sometimes labor intensive - traditional beverages for well branded foreign soft drinks. Imported Soft drinks often out-compete local beverages, sometimes they are cheaper, have better distribution in urban areas, and without doubt have better marketing, embodying connotations, other than taste, that local drinks don't even begin to compete with. Parents unaware of the dehydrating effects of the ingredients give them to infants and children that can have measurable changes in health.

Specifically, Fantababy embodies a relationship between global beverage industries and one extreme consequence of that change on a local drinking / nutritional habits. I'm certain though it may not be a medical term as such, Fantababy is valid as cultural term, even if slang to describe real world phenomena.

Fantababy is a health problem where infants become malnourished, not from a lack of available food, but from the types of food given to them. It would also refer to an exacerbation by soft drink of a pre-existing critical condition. Carbonated liquids that are low in fat and protein and have a high osmolarity due to their sugar concentration are not appropriate for rehydrating or nourishing infants.

A quick note. A second issue tying together infants, malnutrition,dehydration and the soft drink industry is water mining in India and other countries by the coca cola corporation. Local bottling factories extract groundwater without regard for local communities, as a result town wells run dry and as the remaining water becomes concentrated, contaminants in the supply make the water increasingly dangerous to drinkc. In a malevolent future it is not difficult to imagine only Coke sanctioned products being the only availible liquid fit for human consumption. But we all know that would never happen, don't we?

1 In 1969 Zambia's copper production was peaking and as the worlds third largest producer of this valuable commodity, five years after independance, Zambia was still the second richest nation in Africa south of the Sahara, during this time it was not unusual to see a flush of Western consumption. Unfortunatly as Zambia's only foreign exchange earner, in the mid-1970s when the price of copper plummeted on the world market, it was then that Zambia fell into a severe economic decline followed by the twin problems of increasing infant mortality and an AIDS epidemic in the 1980's .
Zambia, Washington DC: U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Public Affairs, September, 1992

2NB Now the situation is a little different on the subject of life-threatening beverages, breast is no longer best, if your mother has HIV that is, many African infants who are saved from catching the virus in the womb thanks to antiretroviral drugs can now contract the virus through breastfeeding unless the milk is properly treated.a.

3In Malawi, not just mothers but health staff as well believe that Coca-Cola contains iron, and children are encouraged to drink it. According to qualitative research findings on perceptions of food by The Manoff Group, this misconception about Coke seems to be widespread in other African countries as well.b


a Lancet (Vol. 359; No. 9313)

bResearch by Linda Williams of the London School of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene for Mothercare's anemia control program.

cNo Water? Drink Coke!
By Nityanand Jayaraman
CorpWatch India

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