Michigan Chemist Guilty of Swiping Secrets from Coke for Chinese Firm

April 24, 2021, 10:47 AM by  Allan Lengel

A Lansing chemist has been convicted of stealing trade secrets from the Coca-Cola Co. and a Tennessee chemical firm to help set up a new business in China, the Justice Department announced. The secrets involved a chemical coating for cans and food containers.

Xiaorong You was convicted Thursday in federal court in Greeneville, Tenn., of conspiracy to commit trade secret theft, conspiracy to commit economic espionage, possession of stolen trade secrets, economic espionage and wire fraud. Her complex trial lasted 12 days.

(Photo: Unsplash/Cloris Ying)

The 59-year-old chemist, who uses Shannon as an easier-to-say first name, will be sentenced Nov. 1.

You, who has a doctorate, was indicted in February 2019 while working as a principal engineer at XG Sciences in Lansing. She earlier was principal engineer for Global Research at Coca-Cola from 2012-17 and a packaging application development manager at Eastman Chemical Co. in Kingsport, Tenn., from 2017-18.

Authorities charged that You stole valuable information about bisphenol-A-free (BPA-free) coatings for the inside of beverage cans. She had access to the trade secrets while working at Coke in Atlanta and Eastman.

The diverted details belonged to major chemical and coating companies including Akzo-Nobel, BASF, Dow Chemical, PPG, Toyochem, Sherwin Williams and Eastman Chemical Company, and cost nearly $120 million to develop, the Justice Department says in a press release

Until recently BPA was used to coat the inside of cans, food and beverage containers to minimize flavor loss and prevent the container from corroding or reacting with foods or beverages. But BPA’s potential health risks prompted companies to find alternatives.

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