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.

While some people are worried that they will soon be reduced to eating pills, others have changed their shopping habits and are heavily favoring any products with a 'bio' label.

European Elections Turn Local

A man who was not a candidate for the last Sunday's balloting for the European election, seems to have lost the whole thing.

President Jacques Chirac, who is the moral head of the Gaullist party, the RPR, became a non-winner when his standard bearer, RPR party chief Nicolas Sarkozy, failed to make a better score than another Gaullist faction led by old party-warhorse, Charles Pasqua.

Of the three Gaullist factions, Pasqua's is the most anti-European and the furthest to the right. He only beat Sarkozy by 0.2 of a percentage point. The third, 'liberal' wing, came third, trailing the leaders by a solid three points.

This caused Nicolas Sarkozy to resign as RPR party head, although he retained his position as party secretary. Fans of the RPR would like to see the factionalism end and would be perfectly happy to have Mr. Chirac do it.

Meanwhile, the Socialist list led by François Hollande received the greatest number of votes and had 22 seats attributed to it. The Gaullist parties got 34 seats all together, but they are scarcely speaking to each other.

The day's big winner was Daniel Cohn-Bendit who brought his 'green' list into fourth place; tripling France's 'green' score from the previous elections.

In the 18 to 24 voting age group, Cohn-Bendit was the top vote getter. Hollande swept the popularity race with the unemployed, the workers and the lower and middle managers - and in this category, Cohn-Bendit got a higher score than any RPR list leader.

Unhappy hunters put up a list of their own and came second after the powerful French Communist Party, to gain the same number of seats in the European parliament.

In total, France elected 87 European deputies; 33 of these from the Ile-de-France and 14 from Paris alone. Of these 14, the majority of them are leftist.

During the week, Paris Mayor and stalwart of the RPR, Jean Tiberi, consulted his pocket calculator and announced on Thursday his candidature for re-election as Mayor of Paris.

As the municipal elections are a long 21 months off, the unanimous verdict of the city's RPR machine leaders was that the announcement was a 'non-event.'

For what the founder himself may have thought about all this, Charles de Gaulle now has his own Web site, where you might find some clues about 'Gaullism.'

Now for Real News

Since we have safely passed the traditional deadline of 15. June, the RATP has seen fit to announced its annual fare increases for the Paris region's public transport.

First the good part. All bus trips will now require only a single ticket - as was already the case in Paris - and the fares of the night buses will be cut in half. In September, the fewphoto: bistro at jaures remaining first class compartments on RER trains will be eliminated, which should reduce crowding at certain times of the day.

The airport buses will have their fares reduced to 26 francs from Orly to Paris and to 39.20 francs for the trip from Roissy to Paris - which is supposed to be a four-franc reduction.

Globally, fare prices are rising about three percent. The unit price of eight francs for a métro-bus ticket will remain the same, but the price of a 10-ticket 'carnet' will rise three francs to 55.

Two million local residents buy monthly or weekly Orange Card tickets and these will rise most - about three percent - for Paris' interior zones 1 and 2. This rise may be reflected in the prices for the Mobilis and Paris-Visite cards. We'll see on 1. July when the new fares go into effect.

Minimal Sports News

Politics was the only spectator sport this week.

Send email concerning the
contents to: Ric Erickson, Editor.
Metropole Midi © 2014
– unless stated otherwise.
logo, metropole sml midi logo No matter how good it tastes,
there is no such thing
as a free lunch.
Waldo Bini