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A soft drink is a drink that does not contain alcohol. Soft drinks are often carbonated and commonly consumed while cold. The most common soft drinks are colas, flavored water, sparkling water, iced tea, sweet tea, lemonade, squash and fruit punch.

The term "soft" is employed in opposition to "hard", i.e. alcoholic drinks. Generally it is also implied that the drink does not contain milk or other dairy products. Hot chocolate, hot tea, coffee, tap water, juice and milkshakes also do not fall into this classification.

Many carbonated soft drinks are optionally available in versions sweetened with sugars or with non-caloric sweetener.

Regional names for soft drinks

The terms used for soft drinks vary widely both by country and regionally within some countries:

Country Terms
Afghanistanmarker In Farsi, "Cooke" refers to all soda not specifically to Coca-Cola
Australia soft drinks, fizzy drinks, lemonade
Some parts of Africa minerals
Brazilmarker refrigerante, guaraná (When referring to guarana flavored softdrinks)
Canadamarker pop, cola, soft drink
Finlandmarker virvoitusjuoma, limonadi
Indiamarker cold drink(s), cool drink(s), soft drinks(formal)
Irelandmarker minerals, soft drinks, fizzy drinks, coke
Israelmarker Tossess (bubbly)
New Zealandmarker soft drink, fizzy drink
Scotlandmarker ginger(older generations), coke, soft drink
South Africa cooldrink, colddrink, fizzy drink, soft drink (formal)
South Koreamarker soft drink
United Statesmarker coke, cola, pop, soda, soda-pop, soft drink, tonic
United Kingdommarker soft drinks, pop, fizzy 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, Alkindus, Rhazes, Paracelsus, 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.From around 1265, a popular drink known as Dandelion & Burdock appeared in Englandmarker, made from fermented dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) and burdock (Arctium lappa) roots, and is naturally carbonated. The drink (similar to Sarspirilla) is still available today but made with flavorings and carbonated water since the Safrole in the original recipe was found to be carcinogenic.

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.

Carbonated drinks

In late 18th Century, scientists made important progress in replicating naturally carbonated mineral waters. In 1767 Englishmanmarker Joseph Priestley first discovered a method of infusing water with carbon dioxide to make Carbonated water when he suspended a bowl of distilled water above a beer vat at a local brewery in Leedsmarker, Englandmarker. His invention of Carbonated water, (also known as soda water), is the major and defining component of most soft drinks. Priestley found water thus treated had a pleasant taste and he offered it to friends as a refreshing drink. In 1772 Priestley published a paper entitled Impregnating Water with Fixed Air in which he describes dripping oil of vitriol (or sulfuric acid as it is now called) onto chalk to produce carbon dioxide gas, and encouraging the gas to dissolve into an agitated bowl of water.

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. Swedish chemist Jöns Jacob Berzelius started to add flavors (spices, juices and wine) to carbonated water in the late 18th century.

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), dandelion, sarsaparilla, 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 1,400 bottles a day to about 58,000 bottles a day.

Home-Paks and vending machines

During the 1920s, the first "Home-Paks" were invented. "Home-Paks" are the familiar six-pack cartons made from cardboard. Automatic vending machines also began to appear in the 1920s.


Soft drink production

Soft drinks are made either by mixing dry ingredients and/or fresh ingredients (eg lemons, oranges, ...) with water. Production of soft drinks can be done at factories, or at home.

Soft drinks can be made at home by mixing either a syrup with carbonated water or by mixing dry ingredients with carbonated water. Carbonated water is made using a home carbonation system. Syrups are commercially sold by companies such as Soda-Club.

Ingredient quality

Of most importance is that the ingredient meets the agreed specification on all major parameters. This is not only the functional parameter, i.e. the level of the major constituent, but the level of impurities, the microbiological status and physical parameters such as color, particle size, etc.

Soft drink packaging

U.S. containers in 2008.
Various sizes from 8-67.6 (237 ml -2 l) shown in can, glass and plastic bottles
In the United States, soft drinks are sold in 3, 2, 1.5, 1 litre, 500 ml, 8, 12, 20 and 24 U.S. fluid ounce plastic bottles, 12 U.S. fluid ounce can, and short eight-ounce cans. Some Coca-Cola products can be purchased in 8 and 12 U.S. fluid ounce glass bottles. Jones Soda and Orange Crush are sold in 16 U.S. fluid ounce (1 U.S. pint) glass bottles. 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, 1.5, 1 litre, 330 ml plastic or 500 ml glass bottles, aluminium cans are traditionally sized in 330 ml, 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 recyclable packaging with a container deposit 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, 1.2 or 2 litre. However, 1.5 litre 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 8, 12, 16, 20, 24 and 64 U.S. 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.

In India, soft drinks are available in 200 ml and 300 ml glass bottles, 250 ml and 330 ml cans, and 600 ml, 1.25 l, 1.5 l and 2 l plastic bottles.

Ice cream sodas/floats

The ice cream soda, also called float, is a drink that consists of one or more scoops of ice cream in either a soft drink or a mixture of flavored syrup and carbonated water. The most common of these is the root beer float.

In the United States, it is usually called an "ice cream float," but may be called an "ice cream soda," or soda for short, as they were made at the once-ubiquitous soda fountains. Some ice cream sodas have specific names such as "black cow," "brown cow," "purple cow" (vanilla ice cream in purple grape soda), and "Boston cooler" (vanilla ice cream in Vernor's ginger ale).

In Australia and New Zealand, it is known as a "spider."

In Scotland (mainly the west coast) it is usually referred to as a "float," for example, a "coke float" (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).

In Belfastmarker, Northern Irelandmarker, there is a regional variation: cola (regardless of brand) and vanilla ice cream are called a "coke afloat."

Health effects

The consumption of sugar-sweetened soft drinks is associated with obesity and is also associated with type 2 diabetes, dental cavities, and low nutrient levels. Experimental studies tend to support a causal role for sugar-sweetened soft drinks in these ailments, but the scarcity of experimental studies leads some researchers to conclude that the evidence for causation is inconclusive or open to debate.

Many soft drinks contain ingredients that are themselves sources of concern: caffeine is linked to anxiety and sleep disruption when consumed in excess, and the health effects of high-fructose corn syrup and artificial sweeteners remain controversial. Sodium benzoate has been investigated as a possible cause of DNA damage and hyperactivity. Other substances have negative health effects, but are present in such small quantities that they are unlikely to pose any substantial health risk. Benzene belongs to this category: the amount of benzene in soft drinks is small enough that it is unlikely pose a health risk.

In 1998, the Center for Science in the Public Interest published a report entitled Liquid Candy: How Soft Drinks are Harming Americans' Health. The report examined statistics relating to the soaring consumption of soft drinks, particularly by children, and the consequent health ramifications including tooth decay, nutritional depletion, obesity, type-2 (formerly known as "adult-onset") diabetes, and heart disease. It also reviewed soft drink marketing and made various recommendations aimed at reducing soft drink consumption.

Obesity and weight-related diseases

From 1977 to 2001, Americans doubled their consumption of sweetened beverages - a trend that was paralleled by a doubling of the prevalence of obesity. The consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages is associated with weight and obesity, and changes in consumption predict changes in weight. One study followed 548 schoolchildren over 19 months and found that changes in soft drink consumption were associated with changes in body mass index . Each soft drink that a child added to his or her daily consumption was accompanied by an increase in BMI of 0.24 kg/m2. Similarly, an 8-year study of 50,000 female nurses compared women who went from drinking almost no soft drinks to drinking more than one a day to women who went from drinking more than one soft drink a day to drinking almost no soft drinks. The women who increased their consumption of soft drinks gained 8.0 kg over the course of the study while the women who decreased their consumption gained only 2.8 kg. In each of these studies, the absolute number of soft drinks consumed per day was also positively associated with weight gain.

Still, it is possible that people who lead unhealthy lifestyles consume more soft drinks. If so, then the association between soft drink consumption and weight gain could reflect the consequences of an unhealthy lifestyle rather than the consequences of consuming soft drinks. Experimental evidence is needed to definitively establish the causal role of soft drink consumption. Reviews of the experimental evidence suggest that soft drink consumption does cause weight gain, but the effect is often small except for overweight individuals.

Many of these experiments examined the influence of sugar-sweetened soft drinks on weight gain in children and adolescents. In one experiment, adolescents replaced sugar-sweetened soft drinks in their diet with artificially-sweetened soft drinks that were sent to their homes over 25 weeks. Compared with children in a control group, children who received the artificially-sweetened drinks saw a smaller increase in their BMI (by -.14 kg/m2), but this effect was only statistically significant among the heaviest children (who saw a benefit of -.75 kg/m2). In another study, an educational program encouraged schoolchildren to consume fewer soft drinks. During the school year, the prevalence of obesity decreased among children in the program by 0.2%, compared to a 7.5% increase among children in the control group.

Sugar-sweetened drinks also cause weight gain in adults. In one study, overweight individuals consumed a daily supplement of sucrose-sweetened or artificially-sweetened drinks or foods for a 10 week period. Most of the supplement was in the form of soft drinks. Individuals in the sucrose group gained 1.6 kg, and individuals in the artificial-sweetener group lost 1.0 kg. A two week study had participants supplement their diet with sugar-sweetened soft drinks, artificially-sweetened soft drinks, or neither. Although the participants gained the most weight when consuming the sugar-sweetened drinks, some of the differences were unreliable: the differences between men who consumed sugar-sweetened drinks or no drinks was not statistically significant.

Other research suggests that soft drinks might play a special role in weight gain. One four-week experiment compared a 450 calorie/day supplement of sugar-sweetened soft drinks to a 450 calorie/day supplement of jelly beans. The jelly bean supplement did not lead to weight gain, but the soft drink supplement did. The likely reason for the difference in weight gain is that people who consumed the jelly beans lowered their caloric intake at subsequent meals while people who consumed soft drinks did not. Thus, the low levels of satiety provided by sugar-sweetened soft drinks may explain their association with obesity. That is, people may who consume calories in sugar-sweetened beverages may fail to adequately reduce their intake of calories from other sources. Indeed, people consume more total calories in meals and on days when they are given sugar-sweetened beverages than when they are given artificially-sweetened beverages or water.

A study by Purdue Universitymarker reported that no-calorie sweeteners were linked to an increase in body weight. The experiment compared rats who were fed saccharin-sweetened yogurt and glucose-sweetened yogurt. The saccharin group eventually consumed more calories, gained more weight and more body fat, and did not compensate later by cutting back.

The consumption of sugar-sweetened soft drinks is also associated with many weight-related diseases, including diabetes, metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular risk factors, and elevated blood pressure.

Dental decay

Most soft drinks contain high concentration of simple carbohydrates - glucose, fructose, sucrose and other simple sugars. Oral bacteria ferment carbohydrates and produce acid, which dissolves tooth enamel during the dental decay process; thus, sweetened drinks 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.


There have been a handful of published reports describing individuals with severe hypokalemia (low potassium levels) related to chronic extreme consumption (4-10 L/day) of colas.

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 cola's 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.

There is a statistically significant inverse relationship between consumption of carbonated beverages and bone mineral density in young girls, which places them at increased risk of suffering fractures in the future.

Nutritional value

Unless fortified, they also contain little to no vitamins, minerals, fiber, protein, or other essential nutrients. Soft drinks may also displace other healthier choices in people's diets, such as water, milk, and fruit juice.

Sugar content

While the USDAmarker recommended daily allotment (RDA) of added sugars is 10 teaspoons for a 2,000-calorie diet, many soft drinks contain more than this amount. High caloric intake contributes to obesity if not balanced with exercise.

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, while in Europe, sucrose dominates, because EU agricultural policies favor production of sugar beets in Europe proper and sugarcane in the former colonies over the production of corn. 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. Simple sugars such as fructose are converted into the same intermediates as in glucose metabolism. However, metabolism of fructose is extremely rapid and is initiated by fructokinase. Fructokinase activity is not regulated by metabolism or hormones and proceeds rapidly after intake of fructose. While the intermediates of fructose metabolism are similar to those of glucose, the rates of formation are excessive. This fact promotes fatty acid and triglyceride synthesis in the liver, leading to accumulation of fat throughout the body and possibly non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Increased blood lipid levels also seem to follow fructose ingestion over time.

Government regulation


In recent years, debate on whether high-calorie soft drink vending machines should be banned 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 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 and milk) at a comparable price.

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 U.S. 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 the United Statesmarker, legislators, health experts and consumer advocates are considering levying higher taxes on the sale of soft drinks and other sweetened beverages to help finance the epidemic of obesity among Americans, and its harmful impact on overall health. The reasoning is that extra taxes could fund educational activities to make consumers more aware of the unhealthy effects of drinking excessive soft drinks, and also help cover high costs to reform the US healthcare system.
 The food and beverage industry holds considerable clout in Washington, DC, as it has contributed more than $50 million to legislators since 2000.

Pesticides in India

In 2003, the Delhi non-profit Centre for Science and Environment published a disputed report finding pesticide levels in Coke and Pepsi soft drinks sold in India at levels 30 times that considered safe by the European Economic Commission. The Indian Health Minister said the CSE tests were inaccurate, and said that the government's tests found pesticide levels within India's standards but above EU standards.

A similar CSE report in August 2006 prompted many state governments have issued a ban of the sale of soft drinks in schools. Keralamarker issued a complete ban on the sale or manufacture of soft drinks altogether. (These were later struck down in court.) 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.

The UK-based Central Science Laboratory, commissioned by Coke, found its products met EU standards in 2006. Coke and the University of Michiganmarker commissioned an independent study of its bottling plants by The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), which reported in 2008 no unsafe chemicals in the water supply used.


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 containing benzoates and ascorbic or erythorbic acid. Five tested drinks 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".

Alcohol content

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 1.56 times higher than that found in Kool-Aid.

See also


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