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Does Mountain Dew Dissolve Bodies? PepsiCo Thinks So

By Anthony Todd in Food on Jan 3, 2012 5:15PM

2012_1_3MountainDew2.jpg On the heels of PepsiCo's announcement that their products aren't bad for you comes a wonderfully wacky legal dispute. Could a Madison County, Illinois man have found a mouse in his can of Mountain Dew? PepsiCo says no, but not because their manufacturing standards are infallible. Rather, they argue that the mouse would have dissolved before the man could have found it.

These kinds of strange products liability cases pop up all the time: complaints of bugs, vermin and body parts in packaged food are everyday affairs. Much of the time they are scams, and the few valid claims are the result of imperfect quality control over massive manufacturing operations. Cases are usually settled or, if they don't get to court, the person that complains gets some coupons. That's why this one is so strange; Pepsi's defense seems tailor-made to scare their customers.

The case was first brought in 2010, and right now, it's still in the early stages. The plaintiff, Ronald Ball, doesn't have the can or the mouse, and he claims he sent it to Pepsi for analysis and they destroyed it. This radical defense, a response to that claim made just before the new year, cited expert evidence that "the mouse would have dissolved in the soda had it been in the can from the time of its bottling until the day the plaintiff drank it."

Rumors about the effects of soda on teeth are common — some of us even did experiments in elementary school science classes. And the acid that Pepsi claims would dissolve the mouse into a "jelly-like substance" isn't that different in strength from what is found in orange juice. The problem is the image: does Pepsi really want to give consumers the mental image of their internal organs dissolving from their daily dose? The cost of settling this lawsuit can't come close to the potential PR effects.