Pesticide in drink kills boy

Updated: 2011-12-02 08:04

By Wang Yan, Ding Luyang and Liu Xiao (China Daily)

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Pesticide in drink kills boy

Internal probe found samples to be safe, said manufacturer

CHANGCHUN - Consumers in this northeastern city have been warned to avoid drinking a strawberry beverage made by Minute Maid, a subsidiary of Coca-Cola, following the death of a boy poisoned with pesticide.

Stores have now been ordered to clear their shelves of the dairy drink, called Guoli Naiyou, according to media reports.

The health scare came after Chu Shiwei said his wife and 10-year-old son became violently ill from sharing a bottle on Tuesday.

He recalled that his wife, surnamed Liu, returned to the family home in Changchun, capital of Jilin province, at about 8:35 pm and drank less than half a bottle of the strawberry drink before handing it to their son to finish.

"About five minutes later, my wife was on the floor, twitching and foaming at the mouth," he said on Thursday. "Her hands were like chicken's feet."

It was not until the ambulance arrived that the boy also began crying in pain.

Both victims were rushed to the intensive care unit at the No 1 Hospital Affiliated to Jilin University. However, Chu's son died five hours later.

"He's now at the funeral parlor. His body and teeth are black," said the father.

Liu regained consciousness at about 4 pm on Wednesday and is continuing to receive treatment.

Food safety watchdogs tested the bottle for toxins and said they found traces of pesticide, according to the Jilin government.

Chu said medical checks showed that his wife and son were poisoned with organic phosphorus, a chemical used in pest control. The hospital declined to comment on Thursday.

The police have listed the incident as a murder case, said Chu, who added: "We are waiting for the government and the company to offer a solution."

In a statement on Wednesday, Coca-Cola Jilin Beverages said that nothing abnormal had turned up during internal quality tests on the batch that included the product consumed by Chu's family. It added that it will cooperate with the authority's investigation.

"Our company takes the recent incident in Changchun of Jilin very seriously," Joanna Price, Coca-Cola's spokeswoman in China, told AFP in an e-mail. "After we were notified of this incident, we carried out comprehensive internal reviews of the retention samples of the same production batches and have not found anything unusual. All the products are safe and within standards."

Li Liuyi, a worker in external affairs office of Coca-Cola Jilin Beverages, declined to comment further on Thursday.

The provincial quality supervision authority is carrying out investigations and has ordered the dairy product off supermarket shelves.

At Yuanfang, the chain store where Chu said his wife bought the poisonous beverage, officials were collecting samples of Coca-Cola products on Thursday.

Guo, a temporary manager who did not want to be identified, said the store had never sold Minute Maid's strawberry-flavored milk drinks.

"We checked the surveillance video taken between Nov 20 to 30 and we didn't find any proof the mother bought the beverage here," she said.

An ice chest in the store carrying the Coca-Cola logo was empty on Thursday.

China Daily

(China Daily 12/02/2011 page3)