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Coca-Cola plant under investigation

By Zhao Qian (Global Times)

08:20, April 18, 2012

An official investigation into a Coca-Cola plant in North China's Shanxi Province was initiated yesterday after media reports claimed nine batches of disinfectant tainted Coke entered the consumer market.

"We have sent staff to spot test the remaining batches from this lot that have not yet left the plant, and the results will be published later today on our official website," an employee from the administration office at the Shanxi Province Bureau of Quality and Technical Supervision told the Global Times yesterday on condition of anonymity.

Despite this assurance, by press time late yesterday, no results had been released, and calls to the bureau were no longer answered.

"The so-called whistleblower's account is completely false. We encourage our staff members to report any concerns via appropriate channels, so that the company can investigate accordingly," read a Coca-Cola statement sent to the Global Times yesterday.

An anonymous employee at the Shanxi Coca-Cola plant recently told China National Radio (CNR) that on February 8, large amounts of chlorine were found in the water used to manufacture Coke and the production was halted.

On February 3, the plant used chlorine to clean newly replaced pipelines, and it was allegedly then detected along the production line.

"We smelled a strong odor of chlorine in the potable water over the following days," the employee was quoted by CNR as saying yesterday.

According to the report, a total of nine batches of Coke, around 120,000 boxes, were temporarily barred from distribution after the incident, but later sold to markets in Shanxi.

Gao Xufeng, public relations director for Coca-Cola (Shanxi) Beverages Co. Ltd, told CNR that their products are safe, citing a test report from the Shanxi Food Quality Supervision and Inspection Center.

"Due to unforeseen circumstances, sometimes products with qualified testing results can still be unsafe," Dong Jinshi, secretary-general of the International Food Packaging Association, told the Global Times yesterday.

Dong, who previously worked for a water service company, said if the chlorine detected in water is higher than edible limits, it could be harmful to people's health with prolonged ingestion.

Public concern has stemmed from the fact that this incident was only brought to light two months after it occurred.

"I won't be drinking any more Coke because I'm worried that I could have already consumed tainted soda," Liu Junmiao, a 47-year-old middle school teacher in Changzhi, Shanxi, told the Global Times yesterday.

Dong said the concern is understandable, and emphasized that the related supervision department has a responsibility to release test results within a reasonable amount of time from any incident.

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