Bugs inside sealed water bottles spur complaint to Coke
Posted February 11
Franklinton, N.C. — A Franklinton woman's find inside her sealed bottles of water ranks as one of the most bizarre complaints ever reported to 5 On Your Side.
But it was the company's response to her complaint that really disappointed Susan Samson.
Samson had eight cases of Dasani bottled water bought in bulk when a local grocer put them on sale. She stocks up whenever the price is right.
When she opened many of the bottles, Samson found light-colored globs on the caps and rims of unopened bottles that appear to be insect larvae. She believes it’s moth larvae, after she found moths in the cardboard packaging. Not every bottle was contaminated, but many were.
"A lot of them are right on the tip of the mouthpiece," she said. "Some people may wipe it off and drink it, but I am not going to do that!"
The bottles were labeled for use by April, June and July of 2016. She thought the company would resolve her issue, but their response sent her to 5 On Your Side.
When Samson called Dasani's parent company, Coca-Cola, a spokeswoman there told her they'd been having problems with a distributor and promised to send a box for her to return some of the bottles for testing.
Instead, Samson got a letter from Coca-Cola and coupons for four six packs of more Dasani.
"I either want my money back or I just want Dasani without bugs in it," Samson said.
In an email to 5 On Your Side, Lauren C. Steele, senior vice president of Corporate Affairs for Coca-Cola Consolidated, wrote that the company had "determined there was no health or product safety concern" and that "There is almost zero chance there were any moths or larvae involved."
After 5 On Your Side sent a photo of one of the bottles in question, Steele added, "It wouldn't be possible for moths to get into product during the manufacturing process."
Samson says between the company's response, the apparent moths and larvae, she's disappointed in Coca-Cola.
"It just was really a letdown," she said. Samson said her family has been loyal Dasani drinkers for 10 years and expected some kind of loyalty in return.
Coca Cola has since called and apologized to Samson. They had her send two bottles for testing.
Hours before Samson's story was to air on WRAL-TV, Coke sent their test results to 5 On Your Side confirming moth larva. Steele wrote:
“We very sorry that Ms. Samson has had what was clearly an unpleasant experience, but want to assure her – and the public – that there are no health or safety issues surrounding our products. We care about our consumers, so we tracked down the facts. Ms. Samson sent us sample bottles of Dasani from two different date codes – and referenced a third with yet another date code. The product was produced in three different batches in April, July and August, 2015. Lab analysis showed presence of moth larvae on the outside of one of the bottles – outside, not inside. There is no possibility larvae could have entered the product. The larvae appears to be Indian Meal Moth, a common pest sometimes found in household products like grains, flour, birdseed or dog food typically stored in home pantries, closets or garages.
We did a thorough investigation of sanitation and quality records where these bottles were blown, filled and stored prior to distribution. Records show no moth or larvae presence in any of our three different facilities, and no other quality issues or consumer complaints. Again, these bottles were filled on three different occasions over a six month period, with no instances of moth presence in any facility.
The quality and safety of our products is our number one concern, and there is no product safety issue whatsoever in this situation. We care about all of our consumers and have tried to address Ms. Samson’s concerns.”
Samson also reached out to North Carolina's Department of Agriculture. Their tests also confirmed moths. Food Administrator Anita MacMullan says the insects could have gotten to the bottles during storage. She says a tiny insect can crawl between grooves of a sealed bottle cap. She calls this complaint extremely "unique."
Coca-Cola Consolidated eventually sent Samson a check for $25 and coupons for 96 bottles of water.
"I just want to get the word out," Samson said, "People, check your water before you put your lips on it."