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Coca-Cola given 90 days to pay in contaminated soda case

Coca-Cola has three months to negotiate an out-of-court settlement with 64 people who claim to have fallen ill after taking contaminated soda, a Kisumu court has ruled.

Principal magistrate Thomas Obutu on Friday allowed a request by Equator Bottlers, Coca-Cola’s Kisumu franchise, to reach an out-of-court settlement with the residents of Funyula in Busia County and the Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs).

The residents accuse the soft drinks firm of selling them substandard soda that led to shock and anxiety, running stomach, headache and vomiting among other complications.

The sodas were allegedly sold between October 2013 and January 2014.

Documents filed in court show that the victims are demanding payment of up to Sh500,000 each, which could see Coca-Cola spend at least Sh32 million to settle the case.

Kebs carried out investigations following complaints by the victims and on May 30, the Equator Bottlers CEO Enrique Huguet was charged with manufacturing and selling sub-standard soda.

The prosecution said the company was liable for “manufacturing and offering for sale carbonated soft drinks found not to comply with the standard EAS 29:2000 East African Standard Specification for Carbonated Soft Drinks, contrary to sections 9 (2) and subsection 9(4) as read together with section 15 of the Standards Act Cap 496 Laws of Kenya”.

During Friday’s court session, Equator Bottlers asked Mr Obutu to give it time for negotiations as there had been talks even before the company’s chief executive was charged in court.

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