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US soft-drinks giant Coca-Cola in China/AFP

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China shuts Coke plant over chlorine

US soft-drinks giant Coca-Cola in China/AFP

Shanghai, Apr 30 – Authorities in northern China have ordered a Coca-Cola bottling plant shut after finding its products were contaminated by chlorine, according to a government statement.

Shanxi province ordered an investigation after media reports that a batch of drinks contained water with higher levels of chlorine, the province’s quality bureau said at the weekend.

A receptionist at Coca-Cola Shanxi Beverages Co. on Monday confirmed to AFP that the plant had stopped production, but declined further comment.

Coca-Cola in China could not be reached on Monday, a public holiday.

The contamination occurred in February when water with small amounts of chlorine accidentally flowed into water used for drinks during maintenance work, the official Xinhua news agency said late Sunday.

An anonymous company whistle-blower told local media that nine batches of products were contaminated, it said.

Xinhua quoted the Shanxi plant as saying that its products were safe and did not present a threat to human health.

Chlorine is used in water treatment to kill bacteria, but high levels can be hazardous to human health.

China has experienced several scares over food safety in recent years, many blamed on lax supervision or producers deliberately cutting corners and deceiving consumers in search of profits.

China is one of Coca-Cola’s most important growth markets, accounting for around seven percent of its global volume last year, according to the US company.

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Coca-Cola has said it plans to invest more than $4 billion in China over the next three years starting from 2012.

The company has more than 40 bottling plants in China, where it cooperates with Chinese food giant COFCO and Hong Kong conglomerate Swire Pacific.

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