Harlan Still & Koch

Coca-Cola bottle cap uses word 'retard' in joke attempt

Society has tried to become more respectful to people with developmental disabilities in recent years. At one time, it was not uncommon for people in Columbia and around the U.S. to refer to those with Down syndrome, fetal alcohol spectrum disorder or similar conditions as “retarded,” or to use similarly hurtful words.

Today, the word “retard” is considered impolite at best, and offensive at worst, to people with a developmental disability. As it passes out of everyday conversation, it can be jarring when a worldwide company prints the word on its packaging -- even if it was inadvertent.

Recently, Coca-Cola was running a promotion in Canada for consumers of Vitamin Water. The company paired up English and French words, with the idea of creating a nonsense phrase.

The company checked to make sure that the resulting phrases were not offensive in French, but for some reason failed to do so in English. So when a young girl opened up a bottle of Vitamin Water recently, she found that the underside of the cap read “You retard.”

In French, “retard” means late. But the girl and her parents did not find the bottle cap amusing. The girl’s sister has cerebral palsy and is fed through a tube. “Fifty years ago they might have called her retarded,” the girls’ father wrote in a letter to Coca-Cola. “But we know better now, don’t we?” He also said that he would never drink Coke again.

Coca-Cola apologized for the bottle cap, which they said was unintentional. The company cancelled the rest of the promotion and has destroyed all remaining caps.

Source: Disability Scoop, “Coca-Cola Apologizes For ‘Retard’ Message On Bottle Cap,” Gitte Laasby, Sept. 20, 2013

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