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PARIS -- Coca-Cola Co. has been forced to make a product recall in France for a series of traditional glass bottle eight-pack containers due to errors in the manufacturing process.

The move is a precautionary measure after glass particles were found in some bottles which could have cast shards into other bottles in the assembly line.

The recall -- currently limited to a manufacturing run of about 7,300 units -- is the latest in a long line of setbacks for Coca-Cola in France over the past two years.

In 1999, France's Socialist-led government rejected the Atlanta-based bottler's ardent bid to buy local orange fizzy drinks leader Orangina for upwards of $875 million. The company was later the target of protests waged by French farmers angered over American trade sanctions against European agricultural goods.

Coca Cola's market position was further damaged by a food safety scare that forced the company to drastically curb sales across a wide swath of the country. A number of school children and other consumers reported feeling ill after drinking beverages produced at a facility in northern France, cutting into Coke's sales over the 1999-2000 period as well as its unquestioned place atop France's non-alcoholic drinks sector.

To make up for the crises, Coca-Cola is seeking to better adapt advertising to local tastes and diversify its product line away from its signature drink in 2001.

The company tapped Publicis, Paris, to handle a series of European branding assignments aimed at creating commercials that appeal to local consumers. The first wave of these ads ran in France in February.

On the diversification front, Coke launched its Aquarius line of flavored water drinks last month, backed by a major advertising campaign from McCann-Erickson, Paris, and introduced a series of packaging and flavor innovations in the Nestea iced tea, Minute Maid fruit juice and Fanta fizzy juice drink lines.

Copyright March 2001, Crain Communications Inc.

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