Authorities in northern China have ordered a Coca-Cola bottling plant shut after finding its products were contaminated by chlorine, according to a government statement.
Shanxi Province ordered an investigation after media reports that a batch of drinks contained water with higher levels of chlorine, the province’s quality bureau said at the weekend.
A receptionist at Coca-Cola Shanxi Beverages Co (可口可樂山西公司) yesterday confirmed that the plant had stopped production, but declined further comment.
Coca-Cola in China could not be reached yesterday, a public holiday.
The contamination occurred in February when water with small amounts of chlorine accidentally flowed into water used for drinks during maintenance work, Xinhua news agency said on Sunday.
An anonymous company whistleblower told local media that nine batches of products were contaminated, it said.
Xinhua quoted an official at the Shanxi plant as saying that its products were safe and did not present a threat to human health.
Chlorine is used in water treatment to kill bacteria, but high levels can be hazardous.
China has experienced several scares over food safety in recent years, many blamed on lax supervision or producers deliberately cutting corners and deceiving consumers in search of profits.
China is one of Coca-Cola’s most important growth markets, accounting for about 7 percent of its global volume last year, the US company said.
Coca-Cola has said it plans to invest more than US$4 billion in China over the next three years starting from this year.
The company has more than 40 bottling plants in China, where it cooperates with Chinese food giant COFCO (中國糧油食品集團) and Hong Kong conglomerate Swire Pacific.