- BRUSSELS (AFP) - Shops in Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands pulled
Coca-Cola drinks from their shelves Tuesday in a new health scare that
has left at least 100 people ill after drinking the products while the
makers declared themselves mystified.
- The Belgian health ministry originally
ordered the sales freeze following reports that 42 schoolgirls had taken
- But by Tuesday, at least 101 cases of
poisoning had been registered in Belgium in the week since June 9, a ministry
- Health authorities in neighbouring Luxembourg
also announced Tuesday they had ordered immediate withdrawal from sale
of all beverages from the company while Coca-Cola said it was pulling products
from the Netherlands.
- An official statement from Luxembourg
gave no explanation for the decision, but urged people who had already
bought such products not to drink them.
- In London, a spokesman for the ministry
of agriculture, fisheries and food said there would be no withdrawal of
Coca-Cola products in Britain.
- "We received a phone call from Coca-Cola
yesterday to say that none of the affected batches have been imported into
the UK," the spokesman said.
- Among the 101 turned ill was a young
man hospitalised Tuesday morning after drinking a can of Minute Maid fruit
juice bought from a drinks vending machine, sources reported.
- The Coca-Cola company said it was mystified
by the Belgian government's decision to withdraw all its products from
store shelves after 42 schoolgirls who drank the beverages became ill.
- "Coca-Cola is not aware of the reasons
given by the health ministry to extend the distribution ban of all the
products in the Coca-Cola range in Belgium," a company spokeswoman
- "I only heard about the widening
of the ban on Monday at 6:30 p.m. (1630 GMT). The only cases we know about
concern problems with taste and smell in certain products. The problems
are geographically limited and do not concern the Belgian market. There
are no problems in France," she said.
- Some Coca-Cola products had been taken
off the shelves by the company Friday as a precautionary measure, but Health
Minister Luc Van den Bossche widened the ban on Monday to include more
than 15 million bottles or cans.
- The ban concerns Coca-Cola, Coca-Cola
Light, Cherry-Coke, Fanta, Sprite, Sprite Light, Nestea Splash, Nestea,
Aquarius, Bon aqua, Kinley tonic, BL, Lift and Minute Maid.
- In Wiesbaden, western Germany, the social
affairs ministry of the federal state of Hesse ordered checks on Coca-Cola,
Fanta and Sprite soft drink brands following reports from neighbouring
- However, the ministry said it was not
immediately clear whether any of the products in question had been imported
to Germany from Belgium.
- In Brussels the European Union Commisssion
was notified of the Belgian government decision to freeze sales of Coca-Cola
- A Commission spokesman said the EU executive
organisation had already activated its rapid alert system for food safety
problems with effect from last Friday.
- The system is applied when more than
one EU member-state is affected. Belgium and Luxembourg are both EU members.
- Last week, Coca-Belgium announced the
withdrawal of 2.5 million bottles of regular Coca-Cola after some 30 pupils
of a school in Bornem, northern Belgium, were taken ill after drinking
- Health ministry spokesman Marc Pattyn
said the decision to widen the ban was justified for several reasons.
- On Monday another person fell ill in
Belgium and several cases of hemolysis, an excessive dissolution of red
blood cells, which can cause anaemia, were reported in people who had fallen
ill last week.
- Pattyn also rapped the Coca-Cola company
for failing to state "clearly what was behind the illness."
- The Belgian anti-poison centre said although
the symptoms justified the ministry's decision, no formal link had been
established between Coca-Cola and hemolysis.