News | June 16, 1999

Coke Traces Illnesses in Belgium

Coca-Cola Co. blames substandard gas used to put fizz into drinks at a bottling plant in Belgium and a pesticide on wooden crates at a plant in France for Monday's European ban of Coca-Cola soft drink products (see related article). According to an Associated Press report, Belgium and Luxembourg banned all sales of Coke and other Coca-Cola brands including Diet Coke, Sprite, Bonaqua and Minute Maid fruit juices. Coke's Dutch arm has also ordered distributors in the Netherlands to stop any imports of Coca-Cola products from Belgian suppliers, stated AP.

Following the hospitalization of dozens of Belgian youngsters suffering from nausea, Coke said Tuesday it found separate problems at two plants supplying the Belgian market, but denied there was any contamination of its drinks, stated AP. Philippe Lenfant, general manager of Coca-Cola Belgium, said gas used to put the fizz into drinks at a bottling plant in the northern city of Antwerp was substandard, but a pesticide used to treat wooden crates had infected the Coke cans at a plant in the French port of Dunkirk, located just across the Belgian border.

Coke said it hoped the identification of the problem and recall of the drinks from the two plants, would lead to the Belgian government lifting its ban on the sales of Coke, stated AP.

In a statement released by the company's headquarters in Atlanta, GA, Coca-Cola said it is working closely with the Belgian Health Ministry to assure the safety and quality of products in Belgium and "to obtain final clearance for sale of the products in the Belgian market."

Coke officials in Belgium say the company had ordered further tests hoping it would clear all products not identified as causing problems, stated AP. The company insisted that the problems are confined to the Belgian market and "do not relate to products produced in other parts of the world."