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It’s time for the Tobin tax.
 
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Plan Colombia, globalization stir unrest in Ecuador.
 
House Arrest
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Political Prisoners
In Person: The Angola Three.
 
BellyWashers Vitamin C Drink.
 

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Walking the Talk
The living legacy of the radical past.
 

 
March 29, 2002
Disturbing Product Department
Bellywashers™: Take This Candy from your Baby!

BellyWashers Product ShotIt was standing on the counter in the bagel store, next to the wrapped pieces of coffeecake. Curvaceous like a baby bottle, it had the head of a cartoon figure whose red ears sprouted improbably from the top.

“What’s thaaat?” I asked.

“A vitamin C drink,” the woman wrapping my bagel answered eagerly, sensing a sale.

Uhh? I picked it up. “Looks like a toy, or something,” I muttered, confused even more by the name on it: “BellyWashers. 100 Percent Vitamin C.”

Between the little ears was a push-pull plastic nipple, but the thin plastic sheath glued to the bottle, plus the plastic head and ears, turned the package into a toy, a replica of The Powerpuff Girls.

I swiveled the bottle to look at the label. Zero percent juice. One hundred and fifty calories in 12 ounces. Water and sugar and artificial flavors, and something called “cochineal.” Not a significant source of any nutrient but the added Vitamin C.

I got it: I had in my hand a 2002 version of Kool-Aid plus a vitamin pill packaged to attract proto-consumers, children so young they’re just learning to tell a dime from a quarter.

I immediately pictured a little girl sucking in that flavored sugar water while imagining a Powerpuffs’ adventure. Milk? How boring!

And all for $1.99!

Disturbed, I had to have it.

Down in our nation’s capital, the Center for Science in the Public Interest released a report some time ago called “Liquid Candy, How Soft Drinks are Harming Americans’ Health.” The report deplored the 40 percent drop in milk consumption during the past 20 years by teens who, meanwhile, have ratcheted up their consumption of soda pop.

In addition to a host of other possible adverse health effects, the report spoke darkly about a future generation of women plagued by an epidemic of osteoporosis. It seems that human bones are built in childhood and adolescence, with 92 percent of their mass in place by age 18. If girls haven’t consumed enough calcium by then, too bad. They’re destined to break vertebrae, hips, etc.

While criticizing the soft drink industry’s marketing to teenagers, the report noted that at least it had not “gone after four-year-olds by advertising on Saturday morning television.”

Admirable restraint? No! A marketing opportunity for Atlanta-based In Zone Brands, Inc., inventor of BellyWashers.

On its web site, In Zone describes BellyWashers as “...the ‘liquid Pez’ experience kids have been waiting for,” developed specifically “with kids aged 4-11 in mind.” In Zone proudly announced it had obtained licenses to make the bottles in the images of some of the most popular cartoon characters that populate Saturday morning and after-school TV hours.

But since four-year-olds don’t usually buy drinks for themselves, the clever folks at In Zone added Vitamin C to allay any concerns of “today’s nutrition-conscious moms” who just might be thinking milk or real juice would be a better—and less expensive—choice.

Maybe, like smokers, Moms need to see a warning on the label of creations like In Zone’s: “Caution: This product should not be consumed by children in place of milk. Overuse can lead to obesity, soft bones, and tooth decay.”

Asked about the potential adverse health effects of its product, Christina Sharkey, In Zone’s marketing manager, said the company had nothing to add to a written statement.

“BellyWashers shares the same ingredients as many of the most popular fruit-flavored drinks on the market today,” says the statement. “In fact, a 12-ounce serving of BellyWashers contains fewer calories, less sodium, less sugar and fewer carbohydrates than most similar drinks you’ll find in stores. We have the added benefit of a dishwasher-safe, reusable and collectable bottle that can be refilled with any drink and enjoyed beyond its initial purchase.”






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