Dairy drink pulled off shelves after boy dies

PUBLISHED : Friday, 02 December, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 02 December, 2011, 12:00am


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Food-safety authorities in Changchun, Jilin, have warned residents not to drink a dairy beverage made by Coca-Cola after a boy about 10 died and one of his parents fell into a coma after consuming it.

Coca-Cola said its product, Minute Maid Pulpy Super Milky (strawberry), was not to blame for the death and police are still investigating.

But the Changchun Administration for Industry and Commerce ordered the product pulled from shelves for inspection, the China News Service reported.

The city's food-safety commission also issued a televised warning advising residents not to drink the beverage and to contact the Administration for Industry and Commerce if they had any left.

The precautions were ordered after the boy died on Monday night.

The China News Service said the boy and his parent were diagnosed with 'organic phosphorus poisoning', and that there were traces of pesticide found in the unfinished drink.

But China Business News quoted a Changchun government employee as denying that there were traces of phosphorus in the drink.

The newspaper also cited Changchun health authorities as saying they had received reports of other children falling ill after drinking the beverage, but it did not give further details.

Coca-Cola said products from the same batch had tested as safe in an internal review.

'Our company takes the recent incident in Changchun of Jilin province very seriously,' Joanna Price, a Coca-Cola spokeswoman in China, said yesterday in response to inquiries by the South China Morning Post.

'After we were notified of this incident, we carried out comprehensive internal reviews of the retention samples of the same production batches, and have not found anything unusual. All the products are safe and within standards.'

Coca-Cola has been haunted in recent years by high-profile food-safety cases in China. In February last year, a district court in Beijing ordered the beverage giant's Beijing branch to pay just 2.05 yuan (HK$2.50) to a man who found a bug in a can of Sprite. The man bought a case of the drink in 2007 and was seeking 5.1 yuan in compensation and damages, as well as an apology.

There have also been two cases of suspected mercury poisoning involving Sprite in Beijing, the first in November 2009 and the next in January last year, raising concerns over Coca-Cola products.

After months of investigations, authorities found that both drinks had been spiked. The first was by a woman who was disgruntled that the man she was having an affair with was going to leave her. The second incident involved a boy who accidentally broke a thermometer and then poured the mercury in his drink to try to cover up the accident.