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'Sars' Soft Drink Still Sells Well in Taiwan

A popular Taiwanese soft drink called Sars may raise a few eyebrows these days because of the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome. But many here are still gulping down the root beer-like beverage without hesitation.

Sars — a shortened version of its major ingredient, sarsaparilla — has been the flagship drink of the Hey Song Company since the 1940s.

It tastes like root beer and is popular among Chinese because many of them believe sarsaparilla lowers body temperatures and prevent sore throats or other ailments.

Still, some consumers feel a little uneasy that the soft drink bears the same name as the deadly flu-like virus, SARS, said Chou Shiao-ping, Hey Song's spokeswoman.

"There might be some association with the illness," she said. "But most people know you won't get SARS simply by drinking Sars."

SARS has killed more than 200 people and sickened about 4,000 worldwide, mostly in Hong Kong and China.

Taiwan has reported only 29 SARS cases, and no deaths