is a beverage that does not contain alcohol
soft drinks are commonly known as soda, soda pop, pop
, or tonic
(northeastern USA) in the United States
, fizzy drinks
in the United Kingdom
and sometimes minerals
. The name "soft drink" specifies a lack of alcohol by way of contrast to the term "hard drink". The term "drink", while nominally neutral, sometimes carries connotations of alcoholic content. Beverages like colas
, sparkling water
, iced tea
, and fruit punch
are among the most common types of soft drinks, while hot chocolate
, hot tea
, tap water
, and milkshakes
do not fall into this classification. Many carbonated soft drinks are optionally available in versions sweetened with sugars
or with non-caloric sweeteners
In the United States, soft drinks are sold in two-liter bottles
, 1.5 L, 1 L, 0.5 L, 24, 20 and 12 U.S. fluid ounce bottles, 12 U.S. fluid ounce cans
, and short eight-ounce cans. Cans are packaged in a variety of quantities such as six packs
, 12 packs and cases of 24, 36, and 360. With the advent of energy drinks
sold in eight-ounce cans in the US, some soft drinks are now sold in similarly sized cans. It is also common for carbonated soft drinks to be served as fountain drinks
in which carbonation is added to a concentrate immediately prior to serving.
In Europe soft drinks are typically sold in 2 L, 1.5 L, 1 L, 0.33 L plastic or 0.5 L glass bottles, aluminium cans are traditionally sized in 0.33 L, although 250 mL "slim" cans have become popular since the introduction of canned energy drinks and 355 mL variants of the slim cans have been introduced by Red Bull more recently. Cans and bottles often come in packs of six or four. Several countries have standard recycled packaging with a forfeit typically ranging from € 0.15 to 0.25: bottles are smelted, or cleaned and refilled; cans are crushed and sold as scrap aluminum.
In Australia, soft drinks are usually sold in 375 mL cans or glass or plastic bottles. Bottles are usually 390 mL, 600 mL, 1.25 L or 2 L. However, 1.5 L bottles have more recently been used by the Coca-Cola Company.
In Canada, soft drinks are sold in cans of 236 mL, 355 mL, 473 mL, and bottles of 591 mL, 710 mL, 1 L, 1.89 L, and 2 L. The odd sizes are due to being the metric near-equivalents to eight, 12, 16, 20, 24, and 64 fluid ounces. This allows bottlers to use the same-sized containers as in the U.S. market. This is an example of a wider phenomenon in North America. Brands of more international soft drinks such as Fanta and Red Bull are more likely to come in round-figure capacities.
A float is created by dropping a scoop of ice cream
into a soft drink. In the Midwestern United States
, a soft drink with ice cream added is most often called an "ice cream soda
," or soda, for short as they were made at soda fountains
. In Australia and New Zealand, this is known as a "Spider." In Scotland (mainly the West Coast) it is usually referred to as a "float". For example; a "coke float". (Note: As elsewhere, 'coke' is often used generically to refer to any cola in Scotland, while 'soda' in Scotland is usually taken to mean 'soda water'). The most common of these is the root beer float
In Belfast, the capital of Northern Ireland, there is a regional variation:
Cola (regardless of brand) and vanilla ice cream constitute a "coke afloat".
In the United States, some floats have specific names such as "Black Cow," "Brown Cow," "Purple Cow" (which is vanilla or chocolate ice cream in root beer), or Boston Cooler (vanilla ice cream in Vernor's ginger ale).
Nutritional value of non-diet soft drinks
Until the 1980s, soft drinks obtained nearly all of their food energy
in the form of refined cane sugar
or corn syrup
. Today in the United States high-fructose corn syrup
(HFCS) is used nearly exclusively as a sweetener because of its lower cost. However, HFCS has been criticized as having a number of detrimental effects on human health, such as promoting diabetes, hyperactivity, hypertension, and a host of other problems. Although anecdotal evidence
has been presented to support such claims, it is well known that the human body breaks sucrose down into glucose and fructose before it is absorbed by the intestines. Furthermore, simple sugars such as fructose are rapidly converted into the same intermediates as in glucose metabolism.
While the USDA recommended daily allotment (RDA) of added sugars is 10 teaspoons for a 2,000-calorie diet, many soft drinks contain more than this amount. Unless fortified, they also contain little to no vitamins, minerals, fiber, protein, or other essential nutrients. Many soft drinks contain food additives such as food coloring, artificial flavoring, emulsifiers, and preservatives.
Soft drinks may also displace other healthier choices in people's diets, such as water, milk, and fruit juice.
Studies showing a correlation between non-diet soft drinks and obesity
A study from Harvard
shows that soft drinks may be responsible for the doubling of obesity in children
in the United States
over the last 15 years.
From 1991 and 1995, adolescent boys in the United States, on average, increased their intake of soft drinks from 345 mL to 570 mL. Most soft drinks are sweetened with sugar or corn syrup, and not artificial sweeteners. Dr. David Ludwig of the Boston Children's Hospital showed that school children drinking at least eight U.S. fluid ounces (240 mL) or more of regularly sweetened drinks daily will consume 835 calories (3,500 kilojoules) more than those avoiding soft drinks; i.e., children who drink soft drinks loaded with sugar tend to eat much more food than those who avoid soft drinks. Either those taking sugared drinks lack the same restraint on foods, or sugared drinks cause a rise in insulin that makes adolescents more hungry, causing them to eat more. Soft drinks (including diet soft drinks) are also typically consumed with other high-calorie foods such as fast food, and may also accompany television viewing. Children who drink soft drinks regularly are therefore fatter on average, in addition to being more likely to develop diabetes later in life (see below).
In March 2006, Pediatrics published a paper Effects of Decreasing Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Consumption on Body Weight in Adolescents: A Randomized, Controlled Pilot Study This suggests that reducing consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages helped reduce body mass index in the heaviest teenagers. This was reported as drinking a single 330ml can a day of sugary drinks translated to more than 1lb of weight gain every month.
Soft drinks linked to weight gain and type 2 diabetes
In 2004, an eight-year study of 50,000 nurses showed a correlation that suggests drinking one or more sugar-sweetened beverages (such as soft drinks and fruit punches) per day increases one's risk of developing diabetes
by 80% versus those who drink less than one such drink per month. This finding was independent of other lifestyle factors. It concludes, "Higher consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages is associated with a greater magnitude of weight gain and an increased risk for development of type 2 diabetes in women, possibly by providing excessive calories
and large amounts of rapidly absorbable sugars.".
Soft drinks and dental decay
Most soft drinks contain high concentration of simple carbohydrates
and other simple sugars. Oral bacteria ferment carbohydrates
and produce acid, which dissolves tooth enamel during the dental decay process; thus, sweetened beverages are likely to increase risk of dental caries
. The risk is greater if the frequency of consumption is high.
A large number of soft drinks are acidic and some may have a pH of 3.0 or even lower.
Drinking acidic drinks over a long period of time and continuous sipping can therefore erode the tooth enamel. Drinking through a straw is often advised by dentists as the drink is then swallowed from the back of the mouth and does not come into contact with the teeth as much. It has also been suggested that brushing teeth right after drinking soft drinks should be avoided as this can result in additional erosion to the teeth due to the presence of acid.
Soft drinks may affect sleep patterns
According to one report, soft drinks with caffeine can disrupt children's sleep and leave them feeling tired during the day.
Soft drinks and bone density
There has been a hypothesis that the phosphoric acid contained in some soft drinks (colas) displaces calcium from the bones, lowering bone density of the skeleton and leading to conditions such as osteoporosis
and very weak bones. However, calcium metabolism studies by leading calcium and bone expert Dr. Robert Heaney determined that the net effect of carbonated soft drinks, (including colas, which use phosphoric acid as the acidulent) on calcium retention was negligible. He concluded that it is likely that colas prominence in observational studies is due to their prominence in the marketplace, and that the real issue is that people who drink a lot of soft drinks also tend to have an overall diet that is low in calcium. (Source: Heaney RP, Rafferty K. Carbonated beverages and urinary calcium excretion. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2001,74:;343-347.)
In recent years, debate on whether soft drink vending machines
should be allowed in school has been on the rise. Proponents believe that soft drinks are a significant contributor to childhood
obesity and tooth decay
, and that allowing soft drink sales in schools encourages children to believe they are safe to consume in moderate to large quantities. Proponents note that children are not always mature enough to understand the consequences of their own food choices, and should not be routinely exposed to the temptation of cheap, readily available soft drinks. They also argue that schools have a responsibility to look after the health of the children in their care, and that allowing children easy access to soft drinks violates that responsibility. Opponents believe that obesity is a complex issue and soft drinks are not the only cause. They also note the immense amount of funding soft drink sales bring to schools. Some people take a more moderate stance, saying that soft drink machines should be allowed in schools, but that they should not be the only option available. They propose that when soft drink vending machines are made available in school grounds, the schools should be required to provide children with a choice of alternative drinks (such as fruit juice
, flavored water
) at a comparable price. Fruit drinks are often available, with a fruit juice content of less than 100%, and additives such as water and flavorings and colorings. Fruit drinks sometimes contain as much carbohydrate as the soft drinks they replace.
On 3 May 2006, the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, Cadbury Schweppes, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and the American Beverage Association announced new School Beverage Guidelines that will voluntarily remove high-calorie soft drinks from all US schools.
On 19 May 2006, UK Education Secretary Alan Johnson announced new minimum nutrition standards for school food. Amongst a wide range of measures, from September 2006, school lunches will be free from carbonated drinks. Schools will also end the sale of junk food (including carbonated drinks) in vending machines and tuck shops. See the Department for Education and Skills press notice for details.
In August 2006, after a controversial new report about the presence of pesticides in soft drinks sold in India, many state governments have issued a ban of the sale of soft drinks in schools. Kerala has issued a complete ban on the sale or manufacture of soft drinks altogether. In return, the soft drink companies like Coca Cola and Pepsi have issued ads in the media regarding the safety of consumption of the drinks. Since there is yet no enforcement of the agreed standards by Bureau of Indian Standards, the governing body to oversee the safety levels, in soft drinks in India, it is to be seen how this situation is to be resolved.
Carcinogens in soft drinks
is a known carcinogen
, or cancer-causing agent. Major soft drink companies have had documentation of benzene
contamination in soft drinks since at least 1990. It was originally thought that the contamination was caused by contaminated carbon dioxide, but research has shown that benzoates
and ascorbic acid
or erythorbic acid
can react to produce benzene. (Gardner & Lawrence, 1993).
In 2006, the United Kingdom Food Standards Agency published the results of its survey of benzene levels in soft drinks, which tested 150 products and found that four contained benzene levels above the World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines for drinking water. The agency asked for these to be removed from sale.
The United States Food and Drug Administration released its own test results of several soft drinks and beverages containing benzoates and ascorbic or erythorbic acid. Five tested beverages contained benzene levels above the Environmental Protection Agency's recommended standard of 5 ppb. The Environmental Working Group has uncovered additional FDA test results that showed the following results: Of 24 samples of diet soda tested between 1995 and 2001 for the presence of benzene, 19 (79%) had amounts of benzene in excess of the federal tap water standard of 5 ppb. Average benzene levels were 19 ppb, about four times tap water standard. One sample contained 55 ppb of benzene, 11 fold tap water standards. Despite these findings, as of 2006, the FDA stated its belief that "the levels of benzene found in soft drinks and other beverages to date do not pose a safety concern for consumers".
Quinine, the bittering component of mixer drinks present at 60 to 80 ppm as the dihydrochloride or sulphate, undergoes photolytic degradation in strong sunlight through clear glass, typically with a half-life (i.e. time for 50% of the chemical to degrade) of 3.5 hours in strong sunlight. From its chemical structure the degradation product is suspected to be carcinogenic and is devoid of the bitter taste of quinine. For that reason quinine-containing drinks should never be stored in sunlight. Quinine is used as a bittering agent because of its clean bitter taste, devoid of any lingering after-effects. Other bittering agents are available such as quassia, also a natural product extracted from the Quassia Amara tree and sometimes used as a bittering agent in soft drinks. Its bitter attribute is exploited as a substitute for hops that provides the bitter flavor in beers (Dictionary of Science and Technology Academic Press 1992,p 1772).
A report in October 2006 demonstrates that some soft drinks contain measurable amounts of alcohol. In some older preparations, this resulted from natural fermentation used to build the carbonation. Modern drinks use introduced carbon dioxide but alcohol might result from fermentation of sugars in an unsterile environment. A small amount of alcohol is introduced to at least some soft drinks where alcohol is used in the preparation of the flavoring extracts. The Turkish soft drink manufacturer whose product was listed as highest in alcohol in the October 2006 study noted that the naturally occurring alcohol level in soft drinks is 1.5 times higher than that found in Kool-Aid
History of soft drinks
Soft drinks trace their history back to the mineral waters found in natural springs. Ancient societies believed that bathing in natural springs and/or drinking mineral waters could cure many diseases. Early scientists who studied mineral waters included Geber
, Robert Boyle
, Friedrich Hoffmann
, Antoine Laurent Lavoisier
, Hermann Boerhaave
, William Brownrigg, Gabriel F. Venel, Joseph Black
, and David Macbride.
The earliest soft drinks were Sherbets developed by Arabic chemists and originally served in the medieval Near East. These were juiced soft drinks made of crushed fruit, herbs, or flowers. The first marketed soft drinks (non-carbonated) in the Western world appeared in the 17th century. They were made from water and lemon juice sweetened with honey. In 1676, the Compagnie des Limonadiers of Paris was granted a monopoly for the sale of lemonade soft drinks. Vendors carried tanks of lemonade on their backs and dispensed cups of the soft drink to thirsty Parisians.
In the 1770s, scientists made important progress in replicating naturally carbonated mineral waters. Englishman Joseph Priestley
impregnated distilled water with carbon dioxide
. Another Englishman, John Mervin Nooth
, improved Priestley's design and sold his apparatus for commercial use in pharmacies. Swedish chemist Torbern Bergman
invented a generating apparatus that made carbonated water from chalk by the use of sulfuric acid. Bergman's apparatus allowed imitation mineral water to be produced in large amounts.
Soda fountain pioneers
Artificial mineral waters, usually called "soda water," and the soda fountain made the biggest splash in the United States. Beginning in 1806, Yale chemistry professor Benjamin Silliman
sold soda waters in New Haven, Connecticut. He used a Nooth apparatus to produce his waters. Businessmen in Philadelphia and New York City also began selling soda water in the early 1800s. In the 1830s, John Matthews
of New York City and John Lippincott of Philadelphia began manufacturing soda fountains. Both men were successful and built large factories for fabricating fountains.
Soda Fountains vs. Bottled Sodas
The drinking of either natural or artificial mineral water was considered a healthy practice. The American pharmacists selling mineral waters began to add herbs and chemicals to unflavored mineral water. They used birch bark (see birch beer
, fruit extracts, and other substances. Flavorings were also added to improve the taste. Pharmacies with soda fountains became a popular part of American culture. Many Americans frequented the soda fountain on a daily basis. Due to problems in the U.S. glass industry, bottled drinks were a small portion of the market in the 19th century. Most soft drinks were dispensed and consumed at a soda fountain, usually in a drugstore or ice cream parlor. In the early 20th century, sales of bottled soda increased exponentially. In the second half of the 20th century, canned soft drinks became an important share of the market.
Soft drink bottling industry
Over 1,500 U.S. patents were filed for either a cork, cap, or lid for the carbonated drink bottle tops during the early days of the bottling industry. Carbonated drink bottles are under a lot of pressure from the gas. Inventors were trying to find the best way to prevent the carbon dioxide or bubbles from escaping. In 1892, the "Crown Cork Bottle Seal" was patented by William Painter, a Baltimore machine shop operator. It was the first very successful method of keeping the bubbles in the bottle.
Automatic production of glass bottles
In 1899, the first patent was issued for a glass-blowing machine for the automatic production of glass bottles. Earlier glass bottles had all been hand-blown. Four years later, the new bottle-blowing machine was in operation. It was first operated by the inventor, Michael Owens, an employee of Libby Glass Company. Within a few years, glass bottle production increased from 1,500 bottles a day to 57,000 bottles a day.
Home-Paks and vending machines
During the 1920s, the first "Home-Paks" were invented. "Home-Paks" are the familiar six-pack beverage carrying cartons made from cardboard. Automatic vending machines also began to appear in the 1920s. The soft drink had become an American mainstay.
- The Great Pop vs. Soda Controversy
- The Soda Pop Mashup!
- Health Focus: Toxins in Soft Drinks
- State Laws & Regulations Governing Beverage Sales in Schools, American Beverage Association (PDF format)
- "Beverage group: Pull soda from primary schools", USAToday, August 17, 2005
- "After soda ban nutritionists say more can be done", Boston Globe, May 4, 2006
- "Critics Say Soda Policy for Schools Lacks Teeth New York Times, August 22, 2005
- "Soft Drinks in Schools", American Academy of Pediatrics,
- Soft drinks news page
- "Soft drinks linked to aging", Longevity-science.com blog by Leonid A. Gavrilov
- "Unusual Soft Drinks from Japan", Japanese Innovations blog by Steve Levenstein