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DEVELOPMENT REPORT – April 15, 2002: Vitamin-Enriched Drinks - 2002-04-12

This is the VOA Special English Development Report.

The Coca-Cola Company is developing a new healthy drink for people in developing countries. The new drink is called Vitango. It tastes like orange drink. Vitango is a mix of fine particles that becomes a liquid when water is added. It contains twelve vitamins and minerals that are lacking in the diets of people in developing countries. It is designed to help prevent blood problems, blindness and other common sicknesses in developing countries, especially in Africa and South America.

Coca-Cola tested the drink by giving it to students at two schools in Botswana last year. At the end of eight weeks, test results showed that levels of iron and zinc in the students’ blood had increased.

The United Nations Children’s Fund says the most common vitamins lacking in the diets of people in developing countries are iodine, vitamin A, iron and zinc. The U-N estimates that about forty-three million people around the world suffer from brain damage and physical problems because of a lack of iodine. More than one-hundred-million children suffer from a lack of Vitamin A. A severe lack of Vitamin A can lead to blindness.

Health experts estimate that about two-thousand-million people around the world do not have enough iron in their blood. This lowers their resistance to sickness. It weakens a child’s ability to learn and decreases energy.

Many children in developing countries do not receive enough zinc in their diets. They are likely to have growth problems and infections. Lack of zinc also is widespread among women in developing countries and can cause problems during childbirth.

Vitango is still being developed. However, officials believe it will be on the market by the end of this year. The Coca-Cola Company will offer it first in at least one country in Africa and South America. In time, the company hopes to sell it throughout the world at as low a cost as possible.

Vitango would compete with a similar vitamin drink already on the market called Nutristar. The Procter and Gamble Company began selling Nutristar in Venezuela last October after several years of research. Nutristar contains eight vitamins and five minerals. U-N experts say these drinks are an effective way to help meet the health needs of people in developing countries.

This VOA Special English Development Report was written by Jill Moss.