As the local bottler insisted it was safe to drink, Coca-Cola pulled its no-calorie Coke Zero from shelves in Venezuela on Health Ministry orders.
"This product must be taken off the market to safeguard Venezuelans' health" as it has "an ingredient that can be harmful to people," Health Minister Jesus Mantilla, said a day earlier, according to the state news agency ABN.
The move took Zero, which has been sold in Venezuela for just a few months, out of all businesses nationwide, in this country led by leftist President Hugo Chavez, a staunch critic of the United States and market economics.
Coke and its local bottler Femsa "declare that Coca-Cola Zero has no ingredient that could be harmful to human health," in a statement run in local media Thursday.
Coca-Cola said the sugarless soft drink met all standards in Venezuela but still suspended production of Zero pending a government investigation of its ingredients.