5 On Your Side

Bugs inside sealed water bottles spur complaint to Coke

Posted February 11

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— 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."

10 Comments

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  • John Snow Feb 16, 2016
    user avatar

    Jose are pantry moths ( Indian meal moth) and are not in the bottle but below the threads. They probably came from her house.

  • Gia Momoa Feb 12, 2016
    user avatar

    Stacie Hagwood: I've had water filters and in less than a month I needed to change it so how does having to throw away or try to recycle these chunky filters help me save $$ let alone the environment. I'll be sure to pass your wisdom on to the residents of Flint though.

  • Charles Edwards Feb 12, 2016
    user avatar

    After all is said and done, the results are inconclusive. The bug problem could have originated anywhere - including the woman's home. Coke however, did an absolutely terrible job in the area of follow-up / customer service until they realized bad press was about to air. Even though the bugs may not have originated with Coke, they deserve the bad press.

  • Mark Cooper Feb 12, 2016
    user avatar

    I wish the story mentioned how recently she had bought the cases and where she had them stored since she buys in bulk. If they had been sitting in a pantry or garage since purchased maybe it is on her.

    Not enough info... again

  • Mary O'Shields Feb 12, 2016
    user avatar

    Dasani is one of many kinds of "PURIFIED" water on the market. You might as well just add a filter at home to get "purified" water from your faucet. I do drink bottled water, but I only buy "SPRING" water just the way it comes from the earth. You can definitely tell a difference, and the spring water is only a few cents more expensive than the so-called "purified" water.

  • Stacie Hagwood Feb 12, 2016
    user avatar

    GIA MOMOA: My tap water tastes nasty, too. So I use a Brita Filter pitcher. I actually did a blind taste test among middle school girls two years ago with a choice between commercial bottled water, City of Raleigh tap water, my well water, and my well water filtered with a Brita filter. Overwhelmingly, they chose the filtered well water. City and commercial bottled water came in tied for a distant second, and they hated the unfiltered well water as much as I did! Get yourself a filter and enjoy great-tasting water from your tap. It will pay for itself quickly and you will be doing a great service to the environment and your community.

  • Andrea Douglass Feb 12, 2016
    user avatar

    I agree Fred, sounds like she needs to check her local supermarket. Maybe that's why they put them on sale. She also needs to do a thorough cleaning of her pantry cause they are horrible to get rid of!

  • Fred Holt Feb 11, 2016
    user avatar

    Seems pretty clear that this happened in a warehouse either at a distributor, or at the grocery itself. Not coming from Coca Cola this way. As such, her ire is misdirected, and while Coca Cola hasn't been falling all over themselves to be proactive - I tend to trust their information more than the speculation of the woman here. I didn't see anything where the contamination was in the sealed part of the bottle - THAT would change everything - but that didn't happen.

  • Gia Momoa Feb 11, 2016
    user avatar

    Why is that what she gets? My tap water is county and it's nasty! I would love to be able to save money and the environment but unfortunately some of us don't have a choice. My family drinks bottled water and then we recycle the bottle.

  • Stacie Hagwood Feb 11, 2016
    user avatar

    That's what you get for drinking cases and cases of bottled TAP water! The environmental impact of your consumption of bottled water is exponentially more harmful than a few insect larvae.