Coke Pulled In Belgium,
Luxembourg, Netherlands -
Over 100 Poisoned

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 ill.
But by Tuesday, at least 101 cases of poisoning had been registered in Belgium in the week since June 9, a ministry spokesman said.
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 said.
"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 Belgium.
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 products.
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 the soda.
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.