Report critical of Coca-Cola

17:00, May 18 2011

A government investigation into contaminated bottled water that made a dozen Kiwis sick has found several major deficiencies in Coca-Cola's response to the problem but no action has been taken.

In February, Winton man Ben Fitzgibbon told The Southland Times he believed his respiratory problems had been caused by drinking Pumped flavoured water.

Waikato man Graeme Mead also told the newspaper he became sick after drinking flavoured water he bought in Roxburgh.

Almost 80 people complained to Coca-Cola about the bottled water.

A report released yesterday by Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry director of compliance Geoff Allen says Coca-Cola failed to inform MAF of the problem until two months after receiving the first complaint.

Coca-Cola first recalled a batch of the water in December but did not tell MAF it had done so until February 7 – after 11 people had already reported the contaminated water made them sick.

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Coca-Cola had breached the Food Act 1981 by continuing to sell the product despite knowing it was putting consumers' health at risk, the report says.

But MAF was confident the product would remain off the shelves until the problem was fixed and would not take any legal action unless the company breached the act again, it says.

A statement from Coca-Cola Amatil NZ managing director George Adams says the company accepted it had failed to live up to the high expectations consumers had a right to require of it.

"We acknowledge the MAF report findings and will reintroduce the product only when we are convinced we have solved the challenge of ensuring Pumped flavoured water meets the highest possible quality standards," he said.

Coca-Coca Amatil NZ apologised to the thousands of customers unable to buy the product, especially those who had bought contaminated products, it said.

The Southland Times