Banks DIH has evidence of product tampering for extortion - Reis
Retail over-pricing hurting company By Samantha Alleyne
Stabroek News
October 10, 2001

Chairman of Banks DIH Clifford Reis said yesterday that the company has found evidence that persons have been tampering with its products so as to extort money from the giant beverage manufacturer.

Reis was at the time speaking to the media in the conference room of the company's Thirst Park complex. The media also toured the production plant and had a first-hand look at how the bottles are washed and filled under strict hygienic procedures.

The chairman said he decided to call the briefing because of recent comments made in the media about the quality of Banks DIH products and also to address the issue of the retail pricing of the company's products.

Chairman of Banks DIH, Clifford Reis points to the soft drink plant during a tour of the company yesterday. (Aubrey Crawford photo)

According to Reis, the enterprise is very concerned about recent comments made by a television host who alleged that the business produces items that are harmful to consumers.

The chairman pointed out that the company has been bottling soft drinks for over 100 years, Banks beer for over 45 years and their rum products also have been manufactured for over 100 years.

He said that the company produces over 10 million bottled products per month, noting that it is virtually impossible to manually inspect that volume.

"The company has put in place electronic inspection to complement and supplement our manual process. The bottles are washed and manually inspected, bottles are then electronically inspected and then the bottles are filled and they are also reinspected after capping," Reis said.

He emphasised that the company operates under very strict regulations provided in the Coca Cola manual and according to him there is no deviation from those standards.

He said too that the same adherence to quality standards is applicable to Guinness products and Vita Malt. According to Reis, the company's plants are inspected on a regular basis by the relevant parent companies to make sure that Banks DIH sticks to the regulations provided.

He said that some of the company's products are selected in the streets by persons unknown to Banks DIH and they are sent overseas to the parent companies who do their own laboratory analysis. Banks DIH then receives reports from these companies informing it about their findings.

Reis said that Banks DIH is the top company in the Caribbean in the manufacturing of Coca Cola and according to him the giant Coca Cola company is now asking it to train other countries in the region in the quality production process.

According to the company chairman, evidence collected over a period shows that some persons have been tampering with Banks DIH products.

He disclosed that the company has evidence that persons have been unsealing the crowns of the beer bottles and adding water to the product and in the rum industry the labels are being tampered with.

"Our company stands for quality," Reis said, adding that persons are trying to extort money from the company after claiming that they have found particles in its bottled products.

He asserted that it is not possible for the particles to be left in the bottles and during the tour members of the media were shown how bottles were rejected by the electronic machine if anything foreign was inside or when they had a chipped mouth or bottom.

Reis said that the company is also very concerned about the high prices that are assigned to the products by retailers.

He said that the company's suggested retail price on a bottle of beer is $110 which will give the retailer a 35% profit but some sell the beer for as much as $140.

The company chairman said that this is not done in the case of foreign products and it is "hurting the local companies."

He noted that it is wrong and affects the workers, the country and production. Reis said that the company will be addressing both issues in an ongoing campaign.

The company's Soft Drink Plant Manager David Carto explained to the media the procedures under which the bottles are washed and capped. The process involves uncasing, washing, bottling and capping.

From Carto's explanation and the tour of the plant it was learnt that the bottles are turned upside down and scoured with high pressure water that cleans the entire inside.

Carto said too that the plants have cameras that inspect the bottles and those that are not suitable are rejected. He described the plant system as a "very rigorous one."

Marketing Manager of the company George Mc Donald said that it cannot be over emphasised that the company takes pride in producing quality products and has received a number of awards for this.

According to the manager, the company has in place a consumer response programme which it initiated in collaboration with its international counterparts. Under the programme, as soon as a report is received, action is taken but most of the investigations hit a dead-end because persons are just trying to extort money from the company.

While it is impossible for particles to be found in bottles, Mc Donald said that they do have bottles that are not filled to capacity as well as broken bottle tops. "These are the complaints that are genuine," he said.

Referring to Coca Cola bottles being shown on television with two sealed tablets at the bottom, Mc Donald demonstrated to the media that this was not possible. A sealed tablet was placed in an empty bottle and Coca Cola was poured into it. Because of the gas in the beverage the tablet floated to the top of the bottle.

Mc Donald said there is no way the sealed tablet could remain at the bottom of the bottle and if it were not sealed then the tablet would have dissolved in the liquid.