Coca-Cola has apologised to the Chinese authorities, media and public after a manufacturing blunder led to chlorine-contaminated beverage products entering the market.
The apology follows reports from local media – tipped off by an anonymous employee - that nine batches of beverage products from the plant were contaminated with chlorine as a result of an error during routine pipe maintenance work on 3 February 2012.
Coca-Cola Shanxi Beverages has since confirmed that the contamination occurred when employees opened the valve between the beverage processing water pipe and the daily use water pipe.
The Shanxi Provincial Bureau of Quality and Technical Supervision investigated and confirmed the safety of products from the plant, but later ordered a halt to production while corrective measures were implemented at the plant.
Coca-Cola Greater China and Korea president, David G. Brooks, told a media briefing that the company was sorry for the concern caused by the error.
“We regret that our high standards for quality, integrity and collaboration were not met by some individuals during recent events at our Shanxi bottling plant. These issues were isolated to this on plant in China,” said Brooks.
“We have taken a number of corrective actions to address these matters, and we will redouble our efforts to encourage all our people to work in accordance with our values.”
The company expects to resume production soon, adding that “changes have already been made to key management positions at the Shanxi plant.”
China’s state media outlet, Xinhua, recently reported the resignation of the plant’s general manager and the suspension of several employees in relation to the error.
“We apologise for causing concern to the local community, whose trust and loyalty are the cornerstones of our business,” said Brooks.
He further apologised for the company’s failure to give a timely report on the situation to the superintendent department, the media and the public.
Safe for consumption
The batches in question comprised around 120,000 cases of beverages manufactured at the plant between 4 and 8 February 2012, according to the Shanxi Provincial Bureau of Quality and Technical Supervision.
Of these, around 76,000 were distributed, while the rest remained at the plant.
Chlorine, which is used in water treatment to kill bacteria, can be hazardous to human health at high levels.
Despite the contamination, the Shanxi Provincial Bureau of Quality and Technical Supervision confirmed that the batches were safe for consumption.
Tests by food safety and quality authorities in the province found that chlorine levels in the beverages were lower than that of purified water.