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Coke: Another Recall in Poland

July 2, 1999

WARSAW, Poland (AP) _ Coca-Cola announced the recall of another product in Poland today, saying half-liter plastic bottles of a recently introduced mineral water had unacceptable levels of bacteria.

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.

``The product poses no health threat but does not meet company standards of quality,″ Pugsley said.

The latest recall extends a dismal summer for Coca-Cola in Europe, after more than 200 people complained of illness from drinking Coca-Cola beverages in Belgium and France, leading to a costly recall in those countries of products from the world’s biggest soft drink company.

Then came the discovery by a consumer in Poland of mold in a bottle of Bonaqa mineral water on June 25, which led the company to withdraw all of its beverages in one-third liter returnable glass bottles earlier this week.

In the latest recall of the larger, half-liter BonAqa Plus bottles, Pugsley said the problem occurred in bottling part of the initial batch of the new product. He blamed procedural mistakes that were never repeated.

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.

Coca-Cola and Sanepid, the Polish government’s sanitation agency, determined the bacteria was nonhazardous, he said.

Bonaqa Plus was a new product bottled June 4-6 with a higher content of magnesium and calcium than ordinary Bonaqa mineral water. The initial batch was the only one produced, and Pugsley said the company would now reconsider whether to make any more.

Pugsley said today’s announcement was unrelated to the much wider recall announced Wednesday of all one-third liter returnable glass bottles of Coca-Cola beverages in Poland due to mold found in some of the bottles.

Testing by the TNO Nutrition and Food Research Institute in The Netherlands showed the mold particles were inactive and posed no health threat, according to a report from the laboratory distributed by Coca-Cola Poland Services Ltd. No illness linked to Coca-Cola products has been reported in Poland.

Coca-Cola halted production of beverages in the returnable glass bottles at its plant in southwest Poland when the consumer complaint arose, a company spokesperson said Thursday.

New procedures for washing the returnable bottles were tested Thursday with Polish sanitary officials watching, said the spokesperson, Sonya Soutus. She said full production of beverages in the returnable bottles would resume soon, with new bottle caps indicating the product underwent the more rigorous washing.

By recalling the small, returnable bottles _ Coca-Cola officials refused to say how many _ and now the half-liter plastic bottles, the company said it was taking extraordinary measures to maintain public trust in the quality of its products.

Distribution of Coca-Cola products in Belgium began to return to normal today as Coca-Cola trucks rumbled across Belgian roads with huge signs ``Your Coca Cola is Back″ pasted on their sides. Supermarkets there started restocking the shelves with plastic 1.5 liter bottles of Coke products.

``You have waited with lots of patience,″ a full-page ad in the major papers read. ``The problems that affected some of our products are completely solved.″

Even though supermarket shoppers were able to load their carts again with big plastic bottles, other sizes remained unavailable and stocks were still limited.

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