Open a bottle of Vitamin Water and you may just be in for the insult of a lifetime.
The company, owned and operated by beverage giant Coca-Cola, is under fire this week for including a derogatory message insulting special needs individuals under one of their bottle caps. Canadian woman, Blake Loates, claims she found the message “YOU RETARD” on the lid of a bottle of Vitamin Water Zero after purchasing it from Edmonton, Alberta establishment Wednesday.
“The R-word is just something we don’t say in my family,” Loates told Canada's Metro news, explaining that the shocking message was especially offensive due to her sister Fiona’s battle with cerebral palsy and autism and her other sister, Maddi, both 11, struggle with her vision. “My dad is quite upset and is on a rampage,” Loates added.
Upset may be an understatement according to her father Doug Loates’ letter to Coca-Cola’s board of directors, the Tacoma, Wash., resident calling the incident both surprising and offensive. “The ‘R’ word is considered a swear word in our family. We don’t use it,” said Loates. “We don’t tolerate others using it around us. We ARE over sensitive but you would be too if you had Fiona for a daughter!” he added.
Loates, who wrote his assumption that the company would try to pass off the cap as a misprint or an oversight by a “rogue employee” at a bottling plant, claims excuses are not enough after insulting his family which also includes Fiona’s twin sister, Maddi, who is visually impaired. “[Fiona] has had 22 surgeries… and still gets fed through a feeding tube,” said Loates. “Fifty years ago they might have called her retarded. But we know better now, don’t we?” he added.
Coca-Cola responded to the incident claiming the offensive cap was part of a promotion for the company in which one random English word is paired with a random French word. (The word “retard” in French meaning delayed or late). According to the director of brand communications for Coca-Cola Refreshment Canada, Shannon Denny, the words were reviewed before public consumption. “We did not mean to offend at all. We are certainly very apologetic for this oversight,” said Denny. Vice president of the still beverage unit at Coca-Cola, David Thomson, has confirmed that all remaining caps have since been destroyed following the incident which he has referred to as a "mistake."
Despite receiving an official apology from the company, Loates confirmed on her Twitter account Thursday that her dad is disatisfied with the company's apologetic comments. "PS I spoke with my dad about 20 minutes ago and he is super unhappy with coca cola's apology," she said.