Schoolgirls vs Ribena

Christine Dann sends a fine nugget of news from New Zealand, and an uplifting one to boot. Given that the last story was about how corporations profit from inducing neuroses in schoolgirls, it’s wonderful to see that the opposite also, albeit rarely, applies.

For readers in countries that haven’t recently been colonised by Britain, the soft drink in this story, Ribena, is a grape cordial. It is a thick, dark, very very sweet syrup, mixed with water and administered by concerned parents to children who’d rather be drinking something fizzy and canned, but who’ll take their sugar where they can find it.

The makers of Ribena, GlaxoSmithKline, are keen to distance their concentrated sugar product from those of, say, the Coca-Cola company. They do this by encouraging parents to substitute Ribena for something more obviously bad-for-you, with pictures of plump grapes on the bottle, and the promise that the drink is ‘high in vitamin C’. It’s important for the company to summon up the Gods of Science to justify their claim. Otherwise, well, it’s just thick liquid that makes your teeth purple.

The Gods aren’t smiling on GlaxoSmithKline. The messengers for the Gods’ displeasure were (as is so often the case) two fourteen year old girls. Anna Devathasan and Jenny Suo were doing a class science-project.

“We thought we were doing it wrong, we thought we must have made a mistake,” Devathasan, now aged 17, told New Zealand newspapers of the school experiment.

But Devathasan and Suo weren’t wrong. They were performing the experiment by the book. And, quite rightly, the book is what is now being thrown at GlaxoSmithKlein, as it faces charges of fraud in the New Zealand judicial system. Read more about it all here.