After a Scare, Croatian Authorities Declare Coca-Cola Products Safe

Coca-Cola brand beverages have been deemed safe to drink in Croatia, government officials said on Thursday, following illnesses in the country that had raised fears that the bottles had been contaminated.

A man in the northern port city of Rijeka was hospitalized last weekend after consuming Romerquelle Emotion, a flavored, carbonated drink distributed by Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling Company, a distributing partner of Coca-Cola. The incident spurred the Croatian authorities to order that some Coca-Cola H.B.C. drinks be pulled from shelves.

In the case of the man from Rijeka, Croatia’s health minister, Vili Beros, told reporters this week that analysis showed that an alkaline agent had been found inside the drink and on the bottle, adding that it was likely a cleaning solution or degreasing substance. It did not appear to affect other Coca-Cola drinks.

Forty-five people complained of digestive tract symptoms after consuming Coca-Cola-related beverages, Mr. Beros said, but only four had symptoms that could be consistent with ingesting an alkaline substance. He added that it was not clear whether that was the case, and he said most patients exhibited mild symptoms and were discharged for home treatment, chalking the concerns up to a regional panic.

“There is no reason either to panic or spread fear,” Mr. Beros said at a news conference, according to Index, the Croatian news site. “All institutions are doing their jobs, monitoring the situation and transparently sharing the news. It’s not good to fall for false messages — that contributes to the spread of panic and fear.”

The state inspection office said in a release on Thursday that tests of several bottles from a self-service machine and a retail store in Zagreb did not turn up anything irregular, nor did a separate test of Romerquelle Emotion at a restaurant in Rijeka.

Mr. Beros said the incident in Rijeka was an isolated case and that a criminal investigation was underway. He described the patient as “the most seriously ill” of the dozens who complained of symptoms.

“We welcome the clarity that the test results will bring for our consumers and customers in Croatia after the uncertainty of the last few days and our thoughts remain with the individual affected,” Coca-Cola H.B.C. said in a statement.

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