updated 3/22/2004 1:16:14 PM ET 2004-03-22T18:16:14

The Coca-Cola Co. said Friday it is withdrawing its Dasani bottled water from sale in Britain after finding that samples contained higher than permitted levels of the chemical bromate.

A Coca-Cola spokesman said the voluntary withdrawal was a precautionary measure. Only Britain was affected.

“We haven’t yet confirmed when and how we’ll be back in the market,” spokesman Jonathan Chandler said. “We’ll make a communication on the next steps when we’re ready to make them.”

The Food Standards Agency said there was no immediate risk to public health, and described Coca-Cola’s decision to stop selling Dasani in Britain as “sensible.” It said bromate can cause an increased cancer risk as a result of long-term exposure.

Coca-Cola, which launched Dasani in Britain last month, said the higher than permitted levels of bromate occurred as a result of a process aimed at adding calcium to its bottled water.

“We do understand the problem and have a solution for it,” Chandler said.

The withdrawal began Friday and was expected to be 80 percent to 85 percent complete within 24 hours, Coca-Cola said.

The U.K. requires calcium to be added to the water, said Kelly Brooks, a spokesman for the Atlanta-based company. Calcium is not added to U.S. Dasani and recent testing by an independent lab indicated no detectible bromate levels, Brooks said.

Dasani suffered a rash of bad publicity earlier this month when British newspapers discovered that the product was purified tap water — something Coke had always acknowledged.

Following the newspaper stories, the Food Standards Agency said it was inquiring whether Coke was entitled to use the term “pure” in describing Dasani.

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