Coca-Cola was reportedly forced by regulators to temporarily stop production at a bottling plant in north China, after inspectors allegedly found chlorine in a batch of drinks.
Media had earlier reported that a batch of drinks contained water with chlorine, prompting the food, safety and quality regulator in Shanxi province to inspect the plant, according to an Agence France-Presse report. An on-site inspection, product testing, consultation of records, worker interviews and other methods confirmed that the media reports were fact, the Shanxi Provincial Bureau of Quality and Technical Supervision said in a statement.
The alleged contamination occurred back in February, when small amounts of chlorine got into water used for drinks during some maintenance work, according to China’s official Xinhua news agency.
Chlorine is a naturally occurring chemical commonly used in water treatment to kill bacteria. High levels of chlorine are considered hazardous to human health.
Coca-Cola disputes the findings and a spokeswoman said the temporary production suspension was unrelated to food safety or chlorine levels, reported Agence France-Presse. Trace amounts of chlorine were discovered, but the levels were below the World Health Organization, EU, North American and China standards for drinking water, the spokeswoman said.
Coca-Cola said in a statement it was addressing quality and production issues at the plant and contends that at no time was the safety of its products affected. The company didn’t provide any details of its plans.
China, one of Coca-Cola’s fastest growing markets, accounted for around 8 percent of its global volume last year, according to the company. The firm, which operates 42 bottling plants in China, has said it will invest more than $4 billion into the country over the next three years.
The company also has invested in several programs in China to help raise awareness about the importance of water stewardship, including a public-partnership that will establish four demonstration sites in water-stressed provinces. The four-year $6.7 million project aims to improve drinking water quality in rural areas and strengthen conservation.
The Coca-Cola plant shutdown follows other product quality and safety investigations into foreign companies operating in China. Walmart, McDonald’s and European retailer Carrefour have all been probed by Chinese regulators, Reuters reported.
Earlier this month, Greenpeace said an investigation found unsafe levels of pesticide residue in Unilever’s Lipton brand of tea bags sold in China, Reuters reported. Unilever has issued a statement saying that its products are safe.