What should I do with a contaminated bottle of a product I like?
June 1, 2010 12:41 PM   Subscribe

What should I do with an unopened bottle of sports drink that has bits of rubber and other contaminants floating in it?

I've recently started drinking a new sports drink. I really like it.

Last weekend Mrs. Alms noticed that one of the bottles of sports drink had stuff floating in it. It looks like there's a bit of rubber gasket and then some more ambiguous masses that look sort of like algal clumps with a tiny darker material core.

The drink is clear/uncolored and the bottle is also clear, so this stuff is very obvious and unmistakably contamination.

I've taken some photographs of it. Now what should I do with the photos and the bottle?

My first thought was to send it back to the company in the hopes of getting a coupon for a free case of the sports drink.

But then I thought, maybe I should send it to the FDA or something, to put them on notice that the company is having production problems. If I send the bottle back to the company they can just cover things up.

Another option would be to send it over to the folks at Corporate Accountability International. They are running a campaign against bottled water and it could be a good prop for them and I generally support their goals (at least as far non-flavored water).

The rub in all this, though, is that I like this sport drink. I have a very quirky metabolism and generally I need to eat constantly. This sport drink has made a positive difference in my life. It is unlike other sport drinks and fortified waters that I've tried. I don't want it disappearing from store shelves. It's made by a startup and while I want them to clean up their acts, I don't want to materially harm them.

What should I do?
posted by alms to Food & Drink (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Look, I hate money-grubbin' corporations as much as anybody, but why would you automatically assume the manufacturer would "cover it up?" It's quite possible that other drinks from the same production batch were also contaminated. The manufacturer will know where the drinks from that batch were distributed, and quite likely recall them. And a recall could mean bad press, but it's the right and responsible thing to do.

There will probably be an 800 number on the label somewhere for you to call. They will probably ask you for the batch number that's printed on the bottle. They may well send you a coupon or something. One incident of something floating in your mass-produced sports drink does not a catastrophe make.
posted by trunk muffins at 12:56 PM on June 1, 2010

The FDA? Are you kidding? Seals are imperfect. Transportation of food is imperfect. Food goes bad. That's the way it is. One spoiled bottle does not take down an entire company, nor should it.

Call their quality control department, tell them the lot code from the bottle or whatever other number they ask for, they'll say thank you and they'll send you some coupons.

Quality control people don't cover things up, they log the problems and then look into them.
posted by bcwinters at 12:57 PM on June 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

I would recommend just throwing it out and moving on with your day. Really.
posted by joelhunt at 12:58 PM on June 1, 2010 [3 favorites]

Foods (non-meat/non-dairy) tend to be regulated by FDA. Apparently, they would want you to call the appropriate number on this page:


Not sure what good it'll do, but it's a start. (And I do think that if you see tainted food like this, you should tell the proper authorities.)
posted by cgs06 at 12:59 PM on June 1, 2010

Best answer: Hang on to the bottle. Keep it unopened.

Send them an email explaining what you found. Include a picture. Include this:

I like this sport drink. I have a very quirky metabolism and generally I need to eat constantly. This sport drink has made a positive difference in my life. It is unlike other sport drinks and fortified waters that I've tried. I don't want it disappearing from store shelves.

Be polite and helpful. Tell them that you want them to survive and thrive but you're concerned about their quality control. Don't ask for anything in return and don't expect anything. If they send you some freebees, be thankful. Ask them for an explanation of what happened and what steps they took (or plan to take) to make sure it doesn't happen again.

If they don't reply to your email, send them the same thing via snail mail.

If they ask you to mail them the bottle for quality control purposes, do it, but save some pictures and any documentation of what happened.

If they don't respond, or don't respond in any way other than thanking you profusely, then call Whoever Is In Charge Of This Sort Of Thing and send their ungrateful, non-QCing asses down the shitter. There will be other sports drinks.
posted by bondcliff at 1:02 PM on June 1, 2010 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I've had similar experiences and I've always just called the company to alert them to the possible problem. If you feel that they're not taking it seriously, then by all means, alert the proper authorities.

Your goal is to have tasty liquids to drink, their goal is for you to buy their tasty liquids. I think that calling them up and saying, "Hey, I got a bad bottle of your stuff, wanna go check and make sure that this isn't going to happen again?" is what you want to do.
posted by sciencegeek at 1:16 PM on June 1, 2010

I once found a large piece of plastic in a half-gallon of ice cream. I called the company - a regionally local one - to let them know. They sent two guys to my house, who examined the ice cream, asked me about how I'd found the plastic ("Ice cream shouldn't make a clinking noise when it hits the bowl, so I poked around and found the piece of plastic,"), thanked me for letting them know, assured me that they would be checking their factory lines, and gave me a bunch of coupons for free ice cream.
posted by rtha at 1:22 PM on June 1, 2010

Best answer: Don't do it for the coupons etc. Do it for the other consumers who might drink one from a contaminated lot without noticing the nasties in their bottle.
posted by caddis at 2:07 PM on June 1, 2010

I second bondcliff. Give them 2 chances to fix this...not only for just you, but for others in the same batch/line that may also be contaminated/hurt people.

If they don't do anything for their consumers...this company deserves to have a PR crisis as they need a change in management.

Good luck.
posted by hal_c_on at 2:39 PM on June 1, 2010

You could view it this way: by alerting them to the possible risk, you may be helping them avoid a lawsuit from someone who wasn't as attentive as you. You might get free coupons, but they might be able to stay in business. Win-win.
posted by makethemost at 3:30 PM on June 1, 2010

A mefite whom I know and trust, and who would like to remain anonymous, asked me to post this on their behalf:

"I used to work for Corporate Accountability International, back when it was INFACT. Looking at your profile, I realize that we have at least one INFACT acquaintance in common, which is why I've asked rtha to post this for me.

Do not send the bottle to them. That organization is run on hot air, and giving the bottle to them will do nothing to protect other consumers. It might give them a handy visual aid to trot out during fundraising efforts, but it won't do a damn thing to accomplish any real good.

Find the company's 800 number and report it to them. They'll be grateful and something good might come out of it. That would be a much better outcome than giving a dysfunctional, seemingly well-meaning do-gooder group another reason to crow about their manufactured achievements."
posted by rtha at 6:06 PM on June 1, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks for all the responses. This was just the sort of perspective check that I was looking for.
posted by alms at 6:40 PM on June 1, 2010

Without having seen the bottle, since you say there's an algal bloom in it the "rubber gasket" is likely an algal film. It is amazing how thick and rubbery those things can be - I have a colony in one of my pipes and I actually thought it was a piece of rubber blocking the drain.
posted by Joe in Australia at 10:32 PM on June 1, 2010

Seconding Joe in Australia, on the possibility that the gasket could be totally organic unprocessed goobers. I found mine in a jar of ChiChi's salsa, but it sure as hell looked and felt like shellfish.
posted by whatzit at 4:50 AM on June 2, 2010

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