In order for Coca-Cola to continue to exist in its current form, the company has a special arrangement with the Drug Enforcement Administration, allowing it to import dried coca leaves from Peru (and to a lesser degree, from Bolivia) in huge quantities.The dried coca leaves make their way to a processing plant in Maywood, New Jersey, operated by the Stepan Corporation, a publicly traded chemicals company. The Stepan factory imports roughly 100 metric tons of the leaves each year, stripping the active ingredient—the cocaine—from them. The cocaine-free leaves are then shipped off to Coke to turn into syrup, and, ultimately, soda.
What does Stepan do with the cocaine? It goes to the Mallinckrodt Corporation, which creates a legal, topical anesthesia called cocaine hydrochloride. Cocaine hydrochloride is used to numb the lining of the mouth, nose, or throat, and requires a DEA order form to obtain.