Coke: Another Recall in Poland
WARSAW, Poland (AP) _ Coca-Cola recalled a new batch of mineral water in Poland on Friday, this time due to bacteria contamination.
The recall was the second this week in Poland and came even as the world’s largest soft-drink company was restocking Belgian supermarket shelves with Coke as it attempts to recover from a four-week health scare.
Coke trucks in Belgium were bedecked with huge signs proclaiming ``Your Coca-Cola is Back″ and full-page ads appearing Friday in major Belgian newspapers declared, ``The problems that affected some of our products are completely solved.″
But in Warsaw, Coca-Cola Co. was expanding a recall.
Although no illnesses have been reported in Poland, a Health Ministry expert said sampling at the plant discovered E. coli bacteria.
Some forms of the bacteria can cause illness and death, but the experts said that while they were trying to identify the type of E. coli involved, the amount found at the Coca-Cola plant in southwest Poland was so small that it posed no health risk. Coca-Cola said the bacteria it detected was not hazardous.
Ron Pugsley, general-director of Coca-Cola Beverages Poland, told a news conference that an estimated 180,000 plastic half-liter containers of Bonaqa Plus mineral water were being pulled off store shelves for failing to meet quality standards.
The latest recall extends a dismal summer in Europe that has cost Coca-Cola Co. and its bottlers at least $60 million. After hundreds of people complained of illness from drinking its beverages in Belgium and France last month, the company recalled its beverages in those countries and faced restrictions on the sales of its products elsewhere.
Then came the June 25 discovery by a consumer in Poland of mold in a bottle of Bonaqa mineral water, which led the company to withdraw all of its beverages in one-third liter returnable glass bottles earlier this week.
On Friday, Pugsley announced the recall of Bonaqa Plus mineral water, which boasts a higher content of magnesium and calcium than the regular Bonaqa brand.
Bonaqa Plus was bottled only June 4-6, and Pugsley said the company would now reconsider whether to make any more.
A first round of routine testing detected no problems, he said, but a second round of testing this week _ which he also called routine _ showed unacceptable levels of bacteria in the batch produced on June 6.
``The product poses no health threat but does not meet company standards of quality,″ Pugsley said. He said the problem was caused by procedural mistakes that were never repeated.
While Coca-Cola officials deny any problem with the water at the plant at Sroda Slaska, the chief sanitary official in the Health Ministry said tests found excessive amounts of bacteria in the water used at the plant.
The official, Irena Glowaczewska, said further testing was needed to determine if the bacteria originated in the plant or if the water supply was contaminated. ``If other beverages are produced from this water, then other products could also be contaminated,″ she told reporters after Coca-Cola’s news conference.
Another health expert, Janina Stefanska of the Health Ministry, identified bacteria found in samples of the Bonaqa Plus mineral water as E. coli.
After the Health Ministry news conference, Coca-Cola spokeswoman Sonya Soutus said the company stood by its statement that its tests showed the water source was uncontaminated.
Soutus said the company’s tests showed the bacteria was a ``nonhazardous form of coliform bacteria.″ She said all production at the plant was halted Friday.
According to Pugsley, Friday’s announcement was unrelated to the much wider Polish recall announced Wednesday of all one-third liter glass bottles of Coca-Cola beverages due to mold found in some of the bottles.
Stanislaw Kafel of the government Food Institute said the mold posed no health threat because of the small amounts involved.
Pugsley said he had no estimate of the cost of the recalls.
But the latest problems so far seem to have little impact on Coca-Cola sales in Poland.
According to Sebastian Modzelewski, a buyer for the Makro Cash and Carry Poland chain of supermarkets, there has been no drop in sales despite the health scare publicity.
Ewa Pietrzak, sales attendant at a small downtown Warsaw grocery said people were not concerned about the news and continued to buy Coca-Cola products.
``I have drunk Bonaqa today myself. I looked closely at the bottle, it was clean so I drank it,″ she said. ``Everything is contaminated these days, meat, vegetables are sprayed with chemicals. We shouldn’t panic.″
In Belgium, Coca-Cola resumed production early this week under strict new government sanitary standards. But the company still relies on imports from neighboring nations to resupply shops and supermarkets and not all sizes of bottles were available as the weekend began.
``You have waited with lots of patience,″ its ads told consumers.