Six cyclists in Norway were taken to A&E on Friday after they drank clothing detergent which they had mistaken for an sports energy drink.
The Fredagsbirken event of the Birken race held in Rena, near the Norwegian capital of Oslo was interrupted several times as the cyclists were rushed to the emergency ward of a nearby hospital after they were poisoned.
Lilleborg, the manufacturers of the 'Omo Aktiv & Sport' clothing soap, had given each competitor a free sample of their product along with their starting numbers before the race, newspaper Hamar Arbeiderblad reported according to The Local.
Race organisers stressed that the samples were clearly labelled and cyclists were warned against storing the liquid with their drinking water.
After the six riders fell ill, signs were put up next to the bottles reading: “Warning Do Not Drink!! It’s soap”.
On Friday, Norwegian journalist Dag Erik Pedersen tweeted a sarcastic photo of a bottle identical to those which the cyclists drank from, with the caption: "The new sports drink".
Realising why the riders had fallen ill, the race organisers contacted Norway’s poison information service, who advised that drinking around a decilitre of detergent is not dangerous. The service added that a patient will feel uncomfortable for a time, Jo Gunnar Ellevold, the head of Birken, told the VG newspaper.
Ingunn Rønningen Kleven, a spokeswoman for the Birkebeiner, told the NTB news agency: “Since this clothes washing detergent is especially developed for training clothes, we thought it would be relevant to give it to our contestants.”
Following the incident, Lilleborg have said they will “re-evaluate” their packaging to avoid more poisonings.
Anne Gjemdal, head of information at Lilleborg, told NTB: “We thought it was obvious from the label that it is a detergent, but considering what has happened, we will re-evaluate if the labelling is good enough. The product is labelled according to strict regulations.”
Gjemdal added: “We are deeply sorry that people have mistakenly thought 'Omo' was a sports drink. We hope those affected [by the misunderstanding] are well taken care of.”