Croatian authorities investigating suspected cases of poisoning have told Coca-Cola to withdraw two products.
The current suspicion has fallen on some kind of chemical contamination.
In total, 45 people have been examined in hospitals throughout Croatia in recent days but only four had throat injuries. The first patient was hospitalized and has the most severe injuries, while most of the others have been discharged with mild symptoms.
Authorities currently believe it was an isolated incident with only one person involved.
Minister of Health Vili Beroš said an issue could have occurred while cleaning the bottles, but investigations are ongoing.
“We still don’t know what the cause is, so the institutions are working, and our task is to detect it as soon as possible,” he said during an appearance on Croatian television.
All samples but one are clear so far.
Two products have been withdrawn from the Croatian market pending receipt of analytical results. They are Coca-Cola Original 0.5-liter in a plastic bottle and Romerquelle Emotion Blueberry Pomegranate 0.33-liter.
The analysis revealed high pH levels in the incident in Rijeka, connected to the Romerquelle drink served to one affected person. Officials said it was likely contaminated with some cleaning or degreasing agent. It is not yet clear if this was intentional or an accident. Twenty other tests of the same drink in its original packaging revealed normal pH levels.
State Inspectorate (DIRH) officers have inspected catering facilities and distributors in Rijeka. As part of this, four samples of the Romerquelle brand were taken and tested at the Croatian Institute of Public Health. They were analyzed for pH, metals, pesticides, and additives but complied with soft drinks and juice regulations.
Following another incident at the University of Zagreb, inspectors took three samples from a vending machine and a retail store of Coca-Cola original and zero. Results found the determined pH value could not cause the symptoms reported, and other parameters were also compliant with the legislation.
“We welcome the clarity that the results will bring to our consumers and customers after the uncertainty of the previous days, and our thoughts continue to be with the person affected by the incident,” said Coca-Cola HBC Hrvatska.
“In the interest of public safety, our priority in recent days has been to provide the authorities with the necessary time to complete their analysis, and we will continue to support the police with full transparency as they work on the incident in Rijeka.”
The Croatian Institute of Public Health (HZJZ) issued general instructions to the public on dealing with ingesting a suspicious liquid.
HZJZ said possible signs of contamination were the drink’s changed taste and throat burning. Advice included stopping consuming the liquid, not causing vomiting, keeping the beverage for further analysis, and immediately contacting the nearest emergency medical service.
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