Coca-Cola this week pulled several kinds of soft drinks from the market in Croatia after reports of illness from a group of people who had been drinking the beverages.
But after banning sales of some Coca-Cola drinks earlier in the week, authorities in the country said Thursday afternoon there were convinced by an analysis of the drinks that they were safe.
State inspectors said the acidity found in the drinks was not capable of causing the digestive and other problems reported, according to Reuters.
In a statement, a local branch of the company said, “We welcome the clarity that the test results will bring for our consumers and customers after the uncertainty of the last few days.”
Officials had been investigating whether several drinks marketed by the Atlanta-based beverage giant had caused ailments that were reported by at least 14 people, one of them hospitalized with serious throat problems, and a number of the others also treated.
Croatian authorities told Reuters that a young man in Rijeka on the Adriatic was the most seriously affected with injuries suffered after he had consumed a Romerquelle Emotion drink, which is marketed by Coca-Cola in Europe. One of the nation’s top health officials told Croatian television that 13 other individuals in various places across the country also reported symptoms.
Coca-Cola in Europe withdrew a batch of Romerquelle Emotion Blueberry Pomegranate. Earlier, Croatian officials had ordered Coke’s local distributor to withdraw a batch of Coca-Cola Original Taste.
Coke officials in Europe told Reuters that it had done an analysis of the two drinks and had not found any irregularities. The company said it was pulling the batches off the market while the official investigation proceeded.
Croatia, a nation of about 3.9 million people, was a part of Yugoslavia from the end of World War II until 1991. It borders the Adriatic Sea to the west and other former members of Yugoslavia to the north, east and south. It is not a major market.
The current scare in Croatia — and the company’s rapid response — echo 1999 incidents in Belgium, when a group of students complained of stomach and other ailments following consumption of Coca-Cola drinks. A few days later, students at four other schools complained of the same symptoms, and in the next few weeks more than 700 calls were made to Belgian authorities with related complaints.
The company found some irregularities, but concluded that they were not related to any toxicity.
According to a 2002 paper in the American Journal of Epidemiology, “it seems reasonable to attribute the first cases of illness in school … to regular Coca-Cola consumption.” But the authors of the paper concluded that most of the other cases were a “mass sociogenic illness,” ailments that are more the result of social factors and anxiety than a toxic chemical.
In the meantime, however, Coca-Cola pulled 15 million crates of its soft drinks out of Belgium, France and Luxembourg. The company also temporarily closed three factories in Europe, according to the 2002 paper.
“Coke learned an important lesson in Belgium in 1999 about being proactive — pull the product first and ask questions later,” said Duane Stanford, editor and publisher of Beverage Digest. “While it’s highly unlikely contamination would get through Coke’s production safety net, consumers want to know that a company takes their safety seriously.”
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