R-word debacle: Coca-Cola apologizes for offensive Vitaminwater bottle cap

09/20/2013 12:52 AM

09/20/2013 12:52 AM

A Canadian woman couldn’t believe her eyes when she took the cap off a bottle of Vitaminwater Zero and found these two words underneath it: “YOU RETARD.”

The words cut especially deep for Blake Loates of Edmonton in Alberta, Canada, whose 11-year-old sister, Fiona, has cerebral palsy and autism. Fiona’s twin sister, Maddie, is visually impaired.

“My dad is quite upset and is on a rampage,” she told Canada’s Metro news.

He certainly was. Doug Loates, of Tacoma, Wash., fired off a lengthy, angry letter to the board of directors of Coca-Cola, Vitaminwater’s parent company.

"The ‘R’ word is considered a swear word in our family. We don’t use it," he wrote. "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 wrote that Fiona has had 22 surgeries and is fed through a feeding tube. “Fifty years ago they might have called her retarded. But we know better now, don’t we?" he wrote.

Coca-Cola claims that the cap was part of a promotion that paired a random English word with a random French word; apparently “retard” in French can mean late or delayed.

Though the word pairings were vetted, someone missed the offensive nature of the R-word in English, according to a company spokesperson.

Calling the caps a “mistake,” Coca-Cola officials said that all remaining caps have been destroyed.

"We have spoken to the family to offer our sincerest apologies and to explain the production process to them," Shannon Denny, director of brand communications for Coca-Cola Refreshment Canada, told ABC News.

"This is certainly not an excuse in any way for what has occurred. We wanted them to know that this was in no way intentional and was a mistake on our part during the review process.”

She said the company would also post an apology on the Vitaminwater Canada Facebook page and on Twitter.

Blake Loates took to Twitter on Thursday, too.

"PS I spoke with my dad about 20 minutes ago and he is super unhappy with coca cola's apology," she wrote.


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