Is Paris Safe To Drink?

photo: bistro at ledru rollin

Parisians taking their ease last Wednesday,
without politics.

Untouched by Doubt: the Baguette

Paris:- Sunday, 20. June 1999:- On Tuesday, 15. June, France's secretaries of State for Consumers and Health, decided to pull 50 million cans of Coca-Cola, Coca-Cola Light, Fanta and Sprite off the French market shelves.

The spectacular action came after 30 schoolkids in northern Belgium fell ill after drinking cans of Coke on Tuesday, 7. June. On Friday of the same week, Belgium Minister of Health ordered all bottles and cans filled by the soft drink manufacturer's plant in Dunkirk to be removed from the market. This action concerned 15 million units.

On the same day, the Belgians sent a health warning to French authorities because the Dunkirk bottling plant served marketsphoto: bastille terrace other than Belgium as well. The following day, French health officials ordered chemical analysis of the products at a Bordeaux laboratory, but the results of the tests are not expected before the end of this week.

Consumers have be alerted to the identifying codes on the soft drinks produced at the Dunkirk plant. On Monday, it was known that products from this plant are also distributed in Holland, Luxembourg and Germany and their authorities stepped in to control the same products.

Last Tuesday, the Coca-Cola Company announced a cause of the contamination. According the company, it was caused by a disinfectant used to spray the plastic-wrapped palettes on soft drinks before shipment. Most of the production at the Dunkirk plant is destined for Belgium.

Victims claimed the accidently-sprayed cans gave off an unpleasant odor. Symptoms included headaches and upset stomachs, and some victims had to be hospitalized.

In an unrelated incident, a bottling plant at Anvers in Belgium was also found to be using defective carbon dioxide, used in the manufacture of small 20 cl. bottles of Coke.

In Thursday's editions, it was reported that 80 consumers had been affected in France. A day later, anti-poison centres had registered over 700 phone calls.

But given the size of the operation to take all the products off the shelves, French authorities decided on Friday to order the removal only of the production from Dunkirk. These can be identified by the code letters DL, DV, DW, DP and DX printed on the bottom of the cans.

Although the results of the government-ordered Bordeaux lab tests were not available on Friday, Coca-Cola held a press conference to state that the contents were not an issue - that only the outside of some of the containers were contaminated.

Consumers Are Passive

While the contaminated soft drinks have caused a huge uproar because so much of them are consumed by children - and adults - many Europeans seem to have a resigned attitude to other cases of food contamination.

Recently it was found that some Belgian poultry products have been contaminated with dioxin. The source was found to be feed made partly from animal matter.

This incident caused a bit of a stir when consumers got some idea of how widely poultry products are distributed - not just as whole chickens and eggs, but all the other products that contain them, such as mayonnaise.

This in turn recalls the 'Mad Cow Disease' which had more of less the same source of contamination. Although it seldom makes headlines any more, cases of 'Mad Cow Disease' stillphoto: bistro reflections, rue roquette pop up with some frequency; usually with a laconic announcement of an entire herd being destroyed on the orders of health authorities.

Cheeses have been hard hit lately in France and one doesn't know if it is a regular thing or is just being made more public.

The root of the problem is the absolute necessity to have absolutely germ-free conditions when treating cheese made from whole, unpasteurized milk. Cheeses made with this milk are very popular in France.

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