News / Calgary

Coca-Cola product drinker told to 'PONDER RETARDS' in second Alberta bottle-cap gaffe

Coca-Cola is facing a splash of criticism for once again having an "offensive" term printed on the bottle cap of a Vitaminwater container — only this time the controversy has surfaced in Calgary.

Thousands lashed out at the beverage giant in September when Metro was first to report that Edmonton-based photographer Blake Loates had unscrewed a Vitaminwater cap to find the words "YOU RETARD" printed on it. Making the matter worse was that Loates younger sister had been diagnosed with both cerebral palsy and autism.

On Tuesday, Calgary resident Braeden Rossell popped the lid on a lemonade Vitaminwater to find the words "PONDER RETARDS" written on the cap.

Coca-Cola has maintained the words were printed by a machine as part of a promotion to showcase Canada's multiculturalism by pairing an English word with a French one on each bottle cap. The word "retards" in French implies lateness or a delay.

But Rossell said the error shouldn't have happened once, let alone twice.

"There's no mention on the bottle of this promotional thing," she told Metro exclusively Wednesday. "So, not knowing of the previous story, it's something you're going to take offence to. Even knowing about that now, it's still offensive."

Coca-Cola did apologize to the Loates family after the initial gaffe in September and said while it did inspect all the bottle caps before shipping, they were only reviewed in the French context.

The company maintained Wednesday it had destroyed any of the caps on Vitaminwater bottles yet to be sent after the Loates family lodged a complaint, but spokesperson Shannon Denny said Coca-Cola was always aware more unfortunate word combinations could surface.

"The bottle that you're speaking of would be one that had already been produced and was just in the market from that point on," Denny said in an interview Wednesday, adding, "Who knows how many unfortunate combinations of words there may be out there . . . we made the actions that we did to apologize for that and to make a couple of donations to recognize we were not be able to get all of the bottles out of market — and some may still be out in the market."

Rossell said the bottle, which she purchased at a northeast convenience store, was due to expire in early February, suggesting that it had likely been produced months ago.

Even still, she added, "They should have thought about the fact that a word in one language could mean something totally different in another."

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