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DALLAS - Several Coca-Cola Co. employees have accused the company of repackaging nearly out-of-date soda cans and bottles and then reselling them at stores in minority neighborhoods, The Associated Press reports.
Coca-Cola officials have denied the allegations and said the employees never made the claims internally.
One worker who made deliveries to stores in predominantly white and black Dallas neighborhoods told the AP the practice was widespread and well-known when he started working as a Coca-Cola merchandiser in 1993. He said so-called "near-dated" items were shipped from white neighborhood stores and sold at a discount in predominantly black and Hispanic stores.
Rick Gillis, division vice president and general manager for Coca-Cola Bottling Co. of North Texas, located in Dallas, told the AP that after a newspaper reporter brought the allegations to their attention about two weeks ago, company officials conducted an internal investigation and spoke with everyone involved in the supply chain.
"We believe without a doubt that these allegations are totally without merit," Gillis said.
Kenneth Newsome, a dairy manager at a Sack-N-Save in Oak Cliff, told the AP that Coke merchandisers took near-dated soda off the store shelves and repackaged it in the store's back room.
The old soda also was put into the store's vending machines, said Newsome, who has worked at the store for 16 years and first noticed the repackaging about five years ago.
Hamilton now works a new route, delivering drinks to five grocery stores in Garland and Mesquite, both predominantly white suburbs of Dallas. There, the policy on about-to-expire soft drinks is much different, he said.