People over 30, do you remember a short-lived soda from the early 80s called Like Cola? Despite heavy TV advertising it failed dismally. I was trying to remember the jingle for some reason so I scrounged up some YouTubes of their ads.
I remember these commercials for the “flavored by the cola nut” angle they pushed. Duly programmed, I’m pretty sure I (unsuccessfully) lobbied my parents to buy this stuff, insisting that we experience the delicious genuine flavor that only real Brazilian cola nut extract can provide, or something.
Anyway, what I did not remember until I saw these was how heavily the caffeine-free aspect was played:
(See also Pepsi Free.) What the heck is going on here — was there some kind of anti-caffeine health scare going on the 80s or something? Well, if it isn’t our old friends at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, America’s Greatest Public Health Menace!
A quick Google search returns these two snippets — the first, from the book Junk Science Judo:
The CSPI petitioned the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in November 1979 to label coffee and tea for caffeine content and, once again, issue warnings to pregnant women. …
The FDA soon caved, issuing a 1980 warning to pregnant women to minimize their consumption of coffee, tea, and colas — even though, the FDA acknowledged, the evidence wasn’t conclusive. … Baby rats had been born with missing parts of toes when their mothers were force fed caffeine at the human equivalent of 24 cups of coffee per day.
The CSPI’s campaign unraveled soon enough, though. In June 1981, a review panel at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences concluded that the pregnant rats may simply have been poisoned by the high doses of caffeine. This caused them to lose weight and the weight loss itself affected the development of the baby rats.
And there’s this from a book called Uncommon Grounds:
More consumers … were switching to decaffeinated coffee as health concerns peaked in the early 1980s. … health fears escalated, so that even the average coffee drinker worried about what his morning cup might be doing to him.
Throughout the late 1970s, Michael Jacobson of the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CPSI) had hammered away at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to remove caffeine from the list of drugs “Generally Recognized as Safe” (GRAS). … In November 1979 Jacobson filed a petition with the FDA asking for warning labels on coffee and tea packages reading: “Caffeine May Cause Birth Defects.”
Remember that this Michael Jacobson of CSPI is the same anti-meat douchebag who bullied fast food restaurants into ditching delicious and nutritionally benign beef tallow as their frying oil in favor the dangerous hydrogenated vegetable oils that they are only now abandoning.
Anyway, it’s kind of weird to think that the health-conscious were so fastidious about avoiding caffeine back then. These days your average organic tofu-eater would take double espressos through an IV if he could.