ZAGREB, Croatia (AP) — Authorities in Croatia recommended Wednesday that people drink only tap water as they investigated reports of several people sickened or suffering throat injuries allegedly after consuming bottled beverages.
Health authorities ordered the “suspected” products pulled from shops and restaurants, without specifying which products. However, photos on social media from shops suggested they were Coca-Cola brands, and the company later said it was temporarily withdrawing some of its products.
Coca-Cola in Croatia said it would cooperate with authorities, but that its internal investigation so far has shown no irregularities with its products.
Health Minister Vili Beros said several people since the start of the past weekend have sought medical help for “injuries inflicted by suspected chemical elements” but that most have had mild symptoms.
One hospital reported chemical injuries to a patient’s esophagus.
“There is no need for panic, but there is for caution,” Beros said. He said that two cases of people getting sick were “directly linked to the consuming of certain drinks while we are yet to determine the rest.”
Police and the state prosecutor’s office were investigating. “Until then, it is our general recommendation to drink water from the water system, which should be safe,” Beros said.
The latest case was reported Wednesday by police in the city of Split, on the Adriatic Sea coastline. A man felt problems with his throat after drinking a non-alcoholic beverage and has received medical help, Split police said in a statement. A similar case had been reported in the city last month, police said.
Coca-Cola in Croatia said it was withdrawing products even though “our internal analysis has not shown irregularities in the production or in the products.” It said its internal investigation “showed no discrepancies in our production,” but also said it was sending samples for more in-depth analysis.
Reports of alleged poisonings emerged over the weekend when a man was hospitalized in the northern Adriatic port of Rijeka after drinking fizzy bottled water in a cafe. On Tuesday, a university student was hurt after reportedly drinking Coca-Cola.
Both incidents were linked to drinks of the Coca-Cola company. The man in Rijeka had reportedly consumed Romerquelle Emotion Blueberry Pomegranate from a glass bottle, while the student in Zagreb was said to have drunk Coca-Cola from a plastic bottle he took from a machine at his faculty. Another similar case had been previously reported in May.
A hospital in Rijeka on Tuesday said the man was treated for chemical injuries to the esophagus.
“Those are probably some corrosive materials and we need to see if there are any added elements in the drink,” said Krunoslav Capak, the head of Croatia’s Public Health Institute.