Beijing: Chinese unit of Coca Cola apologized for the way it has dealt with a 'scandal' that arose after some of its drinks were alleged to be contaminated with chlorine. In response to the accusations, the company temporarily halted production at its bottling plant in Shanxi province on April 28.

Shortly before that, the provincial food-safety watchdog had conducted an inspection of that site and confirmed earlier media reports which alleged that drinks produced from February 4 to February 8 were made with water containing unusually large amounts of chlorine.

Of the 120,000 boxes of drinks, 76,391 were distributed in Shanxi.

David G Brooks, president of the US beverage giant's China and South Korea branches, said "customers and distributors who have the drinks in their possession, or even bottles that had contained a contaminated beverage, can call the company to have them replaced or get their money returned."

He said products returned from those batches will be destroyed under the close supervision of the Shanxi Bureau of Quality Supervision and Inspection, state-run China Daily reported.

Brooks said the General Manager of the company's Shanxi branch had stepped down and a successor has been appointed to oversee the steps that company must take to resume production in the province, which will only occur after it has received approval from the Shanxi food-safety regulator.

The company continued to say the drinks in question are safe for human consumption. It said its offer to replace them was not a product recall but was meant to keep customers' trust.

Brooks said the company's apology was necessary because it had not responded quickly enough to the scandal and had issued inconsistent statements as the case developed.

"Although we believe the products have no problem and people's worries are ungrounded, we want to take these steps to reassure those who are concerned," he said.

"This is not the best moment for Coca Cola in its 126 years' history, but the incident in Shanxi is an isolated case," Brooks said, adding that it will not affect Coca Cola's reputation and business in China, he said.

(Agencies)

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