Public opinion more powerful than regulation

The influence of public opinion can be greater than any government mandate. That must be the message delivered the other day by PepsiCo Inc., the maker of Gatorade, the most popular sports drink in the nation.

PepsiCo received complaints about brominated vegetable oil it had used in the energy drink. The gripes came from customers who didn't like the additive, which also has been patented — get this — as a flame retardant.

PepsiCo's reaction to its customers was reasonable and prudent. It listened, then decided to eliminate BVO from its energy drink — because that's what its customers wanted.

The Internet has delivered a powerful tool to customers who want their voices heard. In the Gatorade matter, a Mississippi teenager, Sarah Kavanaugh, launched a petition on Change.org seeking signatures from those who share her dislike for BVO. Thousands signed on, although PepsiCo said its decision to pull the product was unrelated to the online petition.

Whatever you say, PepsiCo.

This episode is a refreshing contrast to what the public has seen in recent times. For example, New York City Hall has imposed restrictions on the size of soft drinks vendors can sell. Big Brother, in this instance, has donned a soda jerk's apron to enforce yet another meddlesome law.

It also reminds us of what New Mexico did in 2007 when it imposed a government-mandated ban on smoking in indoor public places. The state interfered in what should have been strictly a private-business matter. Indeed, business owners everywhere in the Land of Enchantment had been banning this seriously unhealthy — but still legal — activity all on their own.

Government need not get into the business of regulating the size of soft drinks or tell companies they cannot use certain non-threatening additives — such as BVO — in the products they sell.

As PepsiCo has found out, the marketplace acts as a kind of consumer policing agency.

The tide of public opinion most often produces a more effective system of self-regulation than anything the government can cook up.

Unsigned editorials are the opinion of the Clovis Media Inc. editorial board, which includes Publisher Ray Sullivan and Editor David Stevens.

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