“It was absolutely horrible, and the machines had to be turned off for about 15 hours to be cleaned,” a source told the Belfast Telegraph, adding “It was unusual because normally the cans come from somewhere else in the UK, but this time they apparently came from Germany.”
The incident led to speculation from the source speaking to the Belfast Telegraph that the cans, which arrive empty at the plant before being filled with the soft drink, may have been used as makeshift toilets by migrants stowed away in the lorries destined for the UK.
The soft drinks manufacturer hasn’t given any details about the possible source of the contamination, but said it is treating the matter “extremely seriously”.
Stressing that none of its products currently on sale are affected by the contamination, a spokesperson for Coca-Cola said: “We take the safety and quality of our products extremely seriously. We are aware of an incident involving empty cans at our plant in Knockmore Hill, Lisburn. We are treating this matter extremely seriously and are conducting a thorough investigation in cooperation with the PSNI.
“The problem was identified immediately through our robust quality procedures and all of the product from the affected batch was immediately impounded and will not be sold. This is an isolated incident and does not affect any products currently on sale.”
Shipments of empty cans arrive at the Knockmore plant where they are filled and sealed before being sent for sale. But it’s understood workers on the night shift last week discovered that a number of cans in one particular shipment had been contaminated.
A PSNI spokesperson commented: “Detectives are investigating an incident at commercial premises in the Lisburn area following reports that a consignment of containers delivered to the premises had been contaminated.
“The investigation is at an early stage and there are no further details at this time.”
The Food Standards Agency said it is aware of a contamination incident at the Knockmore Hill facility, but stressed that there is no evidence to suggest that any affected products have reached the market.
Staff from Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council’s Environmental Health department are also understood to be involved in investigating the incident.