Victims of the allegedly tainted drinks include a 19-year-old who was hospitalised with damage to the digestive tract.
Health authorities in Croatia have ordered Coca-Cola to recall some of its products and temporarily banned it from distributing them, after several cases of poisoning were reported in three cities across the country.
"In the interest of public health and in order to protect people's health, due to suspicions about food safety... the health inspectorate has temporarily banned the trading company from distribution on the market and ordered the recall of suspect products,” the Croatian General Inspectorate announced in a press release.
Samples of several drinks distributed by Coca-Cola Croatia, mineral water and Coca-Cola, are currently being analysed in laboratories of the Croatian Institute for Public Health, the statement added.
The General Inspectorate does not specify how many products are covered by this decision, but the multinational company says it has decided to "temporarily" withdraw a production series of the original Coca-Cola drink as well as two series of sparkling mineral water.
Coca-Cola Croatia said it has acted in accordance with the instructions of the Inspectorate, "even if (its) internal analysis did not demonstrate any irregularities in production or in products".
Last Saturday, a 19-year-old was hospitalised in the city of Rijeka after apparently consuming a suspicious drink in a cafe.
The Croatian Minister of Health Vili Beros also says there have been several other cases of poisoning reported in Zagreb and Varazdin.
Beros says the 19-year-old is in a “stable” condition but is suffering from "serious injuries, including damage to the digestive tract", allegedly caused by "corrosive" substances.
A total of eight other people have been admitted to hospitals, mainly in Zagreb, but the majority have “relatively mild symptoms".
Beros also denounced the dissemination on social networks of "false messages" reporting several cases of poisoning, particularly in Rijeka.
He said the objective of such rhetoric was to cause unnecessary panic, adding, “generally, I would say that there is absolutely no room for panic, but a certain vigilance is necessary,” advising citizens to drink tap water for the time being.
Despite Beros’ reassurances, the largest agri-food and distribution group in the country, Fortenova, has announced that "all non-alcoholic drinks from the producer Coca-Cola" will be recalled in a "preventive" manner from its store networks, while waiting for “official information from the authorities on product safety and how to act”.