Man claims Coke can could have killed his family

ON SEPTEMBER 24, Michael Betts was driving his wife and children down the main street of Nambucca Heads in NSW, when a can of Coke he'd left in his car the day before exploded.

"It sounded like a gunshot went off," Mr Betts, 41, a father of four, told news.com.au.

"My wife was scared, she thought it was a gun and I thought my car battery had exploded," Mr Betts said.

"Instinctively I closed my eyes and ducked, but I was just trying to keep the car straight. If we were travelling at a high speed on a highway, around a corner, it could have all been over."

Mr Betts has made formal complaints to Coca-Cola Amatil, Fair Trading NSW and the ACCC about the incident.

The exploding can of Coke.
The exploding can of Coke.

He wants to claim almost $4000 in cleaning costs and damages to his car and other belongings, including phones and phone cases, that were affected by the "explosion" inside the vehicle.

But his main reason for speaking out is to warn others about the dangers of leaving soft drink cans in hot cars, especially in the lead up to summer.

"I'm really concerned that it's going to happen to someone else or it has already happened and nobody has really done anything about it," Mr Betts said.

All soft drink cans made by Coca-Cola Amatil are labelled with instructions to store the cans in a cool place. No temperature is specified.

In its response to Mr Betts' complaint, Coca-Cola Amatil said the can had "failed" because it was not stored correctly.

"Based on the circumstances and photographs of the incident, our quality assurance team are of the view the can failed due to handling and high temperatures," a customer service rep wrote in an email seen by news.com.au.

"[They] found that the product was not stored in accordance with the directions on the can, which indicate it should be kept in a cool place," it read.

"We understand from speaking with you that on the day of the incident it was 33 degrees in Nambucca Heads, and likely somewhat higher inside a motor vehicle.

"We also understand the can had been in the vehicle for several hours. Impact, or sudden movement when the package and the beverage are at high temperature can also contribute to can failure."

Coca-Cola Amatil's spokesman Patrick Low told news.com.au its cans are "pretty robust" but should always be stored in a cool place.

"It's not ideal to leave any food or drink container in a hot car, on a very hot day, for a long time. Cans can be damaged by excessive temperatures or rough handling," Mr Low said.

"But to our knowledge there are no reports of anyone being injured by one of our bottles or cans rupturing in hot weather," he said.

"There are 12 reports in the last 12 months, of cans 'doming' from being shaken or left in very hot conditions for a long time.

"Note that 'doming' is not the same as 'exploding', it just means the domed section of the base expanded outward to cope with the pressure change, which is what appears to have happened in this case."

A spokesman for NSW Fair Trading said customers who are concerned with the safety of a product they've purchased should lodge a complaint at fairtrading.nsw.gov.au or with the ACCC at productsafety.gov.au.

The exploding can of Coke.
The exploding can of Coke.

rebecca.sullivan@news.com.au


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