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Venezuela spits out Coke Zero

Unspecified health concerns prompt ban

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Citizens of Venezuela have been deprived of the delights of Coke Zero following a government ban on its sale pending a health probe into the zero-cal beverage's ingredients.

Health Minister Jesus Mantilla declared: "The product should be withdrawn from circulation to preserve the health of Venezuelans."

Mantilla did not elaborate on just what risks Coke Zero might pose to the populace. Coca Cola insisted its product contained no harmful ingredients, and stressed: "Coca Cola Zero is made under the highest quality standards around the world and meets the sanitary requirements demanded by the laws of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela."

Coke Zero was launched in Venezuela in April. It's produced by Mexico-based bottling outfit Coca-Cola Femsa, which least year had a run-in with Venezuelan former workers who "repeatedly blocked its plants, demanding back-pay", as Reuters explains.

Hugo Chavez's government has a history of provoking the US by harrassing its mercantile tentacles. This year it "seized a rice mill and pasta factory belonging to food giant Cargill" and rattled its sabre at drug company Pfizer.

Chavez is also a great fan of nationalising local business. On 1 May he took control of the country's remaining private oil compaines, and will in June bring main telecoms operator CANTV under state control. ®

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