This article is from the Dr. Pepper FAQ, by Christopher Flaherty with numerous contributions by others.
On the label in the US, the ingredients are: Carbonated Water;
Imperial Pure Cane Sugar [or "High Fructose Corn Syrup and/or Sugar,"
if you're not so lucky]; Caramel Color; Phosphoric Acid; Artificial
and Natural Flavors; Sodium Benzoate (Preservative); Caffeine.
Chris Dunthorne (email@example.com) told me on July 3, 1998,
that the ingredients on the label in the UK are a little different:
"Carbonated Water, Sugar, Colour (Caramel E150d), Phosphoric Acid,
Flavourings, Preservative (E211), Caffeine."
John Neely (firstname.lastname@example.org), a formerly anonymous Canadian,
submitted "Ingredients from The Great White North" on October 27,
1998: "Carbonated Water, Sugar/Glucose-Fructose, Carmel colour,
Artificial and Natural flavors, Phosphoric acid, sodium benzoate,
Caffeine, monosodium phosphate, lactic acid, polyethelene glycol."
Trace McLean (email@example.com) also on October 27, 1998,
posted the ingredients for Australian Dr Pepper "taken straight from
the bottle": "Carbonated water, sugar, colour (150), flavours, food
acids (338, 270), preservative (211), caffeine."
Brad Dunham (firstname.lastname@example.org), on May 31, 2001, posted the
ingredients for Dietetic Dr Pepper, circa 1963: "Carbonated water,
caramel color, citric acid, phosphoric acid, caffeine, sodium
cyclamate, sodium carboxymethylcellulose, sodium saccharin, monosodium
phosphate, lactic acid, flavoring, spices, less than 1/20th of 1%
benzoate of soda (preservative), .088% sodium cyclamate, .007% sodium
saccharine, non-nutritive artificial sweeteners which should be used
only by persons who must restrict their intake of ordinary sweets. No
fat or protein. .28% available carbohydrates. 1/3 calorie per fl. oz."
(Because of the possibility that cyclamates might promote tumors, they
were banned in the United States as of September 11, 1970. The Food
and Drug Administration had also wanted to ban saccharin in soft
drinks and other foods in 1977 because of carcinogenic concerns, but
Congress extended an initial 2-year moratorium on any ban to the point
where the last moratorium did not expire until 2002. In the interval,
all foods containing saccharin were required to include this label:
"Use of this product may be hazardous to your health. This product
contains saccharin which has been determined to cause cancer in
laboratory animals." Towards the end of the century, however, the
federal government changed its mind considerably regarding saccharin.
On December 31, 1991, while the moratorium was still in effect, the
FDA reversed itself and announced that it would no longer try to ban
saccharin in foods. Almost a decade later, on May 15, 2000, the
Department of Health and Human Services removed saccharin from its 9th
Report on Carcinogens, where it had previously been considered
carcinogenic to humans since 1981. The final blow came on December
21, 2000, when President Clinton signed H.R. 4577 into law, repealing
the warning label requirement.)
Tom Reed (email@example.com) posted the "modern" ingredients
for Diet Dr Pepper in the U.S. on November 23, 1998: "Carbonated
water, caramel color, aspartame, phosphoric acid, artificial and
natural flavors, sodium benzoate (preservative), caffeine.
Phenylketonurics: contains phenylalanine."
(A phenylketonuric is a person who has phenylketonuria, a.k.a. pku, or
phenylpyruvic oligophrenia, a genetic disorder in which the body
cannot properly metabolize phenylalanine, an amino acid which is found
in aspartame. Among other things, excessively high levels of
phenylalanine in the body can cause mental retardation, epileptic
seizures, and a decrease in melanin production. Aside from that, the
FDA insists that "aspartame is safe for the general population.")
Dr Pepper contains 39.6 milligrams of caffeine in every 12-ounce can,
according to the Caffeine FAQ (http://www.coffeefaq.com/caffaq.html)
maintained by Daniel Owen (firstname.lastname@example.org). The Dr Pepper
company, however, claims two other amounts: 40.8 mg of caffeine per
12-ounce can, and 27.84 mg per 8-ounce serving. Regardless of which
amount is correct, this is still a little more than Pepsi
(37.2mg/12oz), a little less than Coca-Cola (45.6mg/12oz), and nothing
compared to coffee, which could contain anywhere between 111 and 300
mg of caffeine in a 12-ounce serving, depending on how it's prepared.
The Dr Pepper company had this to say in a pamphlet it published
sometime in either the late 1950's or early 1960's: "Its unique flavor
results from the blending of pure fruit flavors (gathered from
throughout the world) with mystic spices, from far-off Madagascar, and
clean, clear distilled sparkling water." You don't suppose one of
those spices is vanilla, do you? On the company's web site today,
they state the obvious: "It is a blend of many spices and flavor
extracts. The color is supplied by caramel especially made for the
product." In addition, the company also says the concentrate for Dr
Pepper is kosher, and that "our products which contain High Fructose
Corn Syrup may contain small amounts of corn gluten."
Max Wolheim (email@example.com), who "can't guarantee the accuracy of
any of this," posted this interesting article (with a small caveat) on
June 20, 1999:
Yes, I've heard the "23 fruit flavors" of Dr. Pepper [sic] for years.
I can tell you this is nonsense! I can't reveal the source (he'd get
fired), but here is a list of some of the real flavoring ingredients:
Vanillin (imitation vanilla)
Extract of almond
denatured rum (no joke)
Oil of orange
lactic acid (optional; once listed separately from
Max goes on to say: "None of this is will be confirmed by the PR
people of the company, who reply with the evasive 'Dr. Pepper contains
neither rum nor vanilla.' Substitutions are possible, depending on
the bottler, so that Dr. Pepper in one part of the country might not
taste quite the same as in some others. But denatured rum is
universal to the formula." Take it for what it's worth.
Brian McElroy (firstname.lastname@example.org) posted to alt.fan.dr-pepper on
January 19, 1998 (and emailed me a correction on June 30, 1998), about
his visit to the Dublin Dr Pepper plant, which I think definitively
answers two questions at once:
"Just got back today from the Dublin bottling plant and museum. There
has been a lot of debate on what flavor Dr Pepper really is, so I
asked Mr. Kloster [Bill Kloster], the plant owner, who has worked in
that plant for almost 60 years. According to him, Dr Pepper is a mix
of 23 different fruit flavors. The original creator wanted to create a
drink that tasted like the smell of a soda shop. When you walked into
a soda shop in that day, you smelled all the fruit flavors of the
different sodas all mixed into one. So he basically took a bunch of
flavors and mixed them, and came up with Dr Pepper. He said Dr Pepper
does not and has never had prune juice in it."
Alas, Brian may have been one of the last people to ask Bill Kloster
that question. Mr. Kloster passed away on September 24, 1999, at age
81, having spent 67 of those years working for the Dublin Dr Pepper
plant (minus two years off for service during World War II). His
dedication to keeping pure cane sugar in Dr Pepper will be sorely